Hero rescues pickup truck driver from frigid St. John River in Perth-Andover

A Perth-Andover man is being hailed as a hero after rescuing a man whose pickup truck plunged into the frigid St. John River on Wednesday morning.

Nick Sutthery was sitting on the couch, watching sports news on TV around 8:20 a.m., when somebody banged on his parents' front door to say a truck had gone into the river.

Sutthery ran outside in his boxers and bare feet, then saw the driver surface and get pulled under again by the fast current.

"He was in trouble," said Sutthery. "He was struggling quite bad … and there was a lot of blood."

All Sutthery could think was, "I've got to save this man somehow, some way."

He sprinted up West Riverside Drive to get ahead of the man, then scurried down the steep embankment.

"I went down over it quite quick and slipped a couple of times, but I got down there just in time to react," he said.

With one foot in the water and one foot on a rock on the bank, Sutthery reached out and grabbed hold of the man as the current was taking him past.

"I feel as if I had one shot, right there," said Sutthery. "I managed to just give him one good pull and got him right to shore."

The 37-year-old driver from the Kintore area was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the West District RCMP.

His dog, which was also in the truck, is missing and believed to have perished, police said.

Sutthery said he looked for the dog, but couldn't find him.

'Praise and blessings'

"Much praise and blessings to Nick Sutthery, who did not hesitate to go into our fast cold river … to save a driver from Kintore whose truck plunged into the St. John from School Road — right where so many of us have been saying all along a guardrail should be," Terry Ritchie posted on Facebook on Wednesday night.

By Thursday morning, the "countable responses" to the post "exceeded the population of the village" of about 1,600 people, according to Ritchie.

"In my [seven] years on Facebook and my thousands of postings in that time I've never had one take off so fast and climb so high," he said in another post on Thursday morning, entitled Hungry for a Hero.

L. Dani Candlemire Kelly shared the post, saying, "I am very proud of Rylan's father, who acted quickly and bravely."

"Ironically, his parents Kyle and Rhonda Sutthery also saved a man who had driven into the river in the '70s and received medals of bravery," she wrote. "Bravery runs in the Sutthery family."

Parents honoured for 1976 river rescue

That accident was just 90 metres up the road an also involved a pickup truck, said Sutthery. On the night of June 15, 1976, the driver lost control and the truck went up over the guardrail and down into the river, sinking about 20 feet.

Kyle Sutthery jumped in to save the man, but only got him part-way through the window when he had to resurface for air. A second attempt also failed, but moments later the man extricated himself. Sutthery held him afloat, but the panic-stricken man started to pull him under.

That's when Kyle Sutthery's then-girlfriend, Rhonda Kenndy, who was a lifeguard at the village pool at the time, also jumped in and got the man to shore safely.

In 1977, they were both awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery, which "recognizes acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances," according to the website.

'Unexplainable feeling'

Rhonda Sutthery said she had "mixed emotions" as she watched her son from the riverbank during Wednesday's rescue.

"It could have turned out to be very different for sure," she said, noting there is still some ice in the river.

"If he had to jump in the water to save him, the current was really fast and he would have been going down the river [too] and who knows, I probably would have been jumping right in behind him to try to save him."

But her son's quick-thinking impressed her. "There was no hesitation on what he needed to do," she said. "He did well, he really did."

Nick Sutthery said he's been overwhelmed by congratulations and words of encouragement he has received, including a thank you visit from the man's mother.

"It's an unexplainable feeling that I'll never be able to forget," he said.

"I'm just glad I was there and able to save the man," said Sutthery, noting he's been working in Fredericton for the last couple of years and splitting his time between there and his parents' house.

"There was somebody looking after both of us, I think."

The investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing, RCMP Sgt. J.P. MacDougall said in a statement. Investigators have not yet been able to recover the pickup truck from the river, he said.