Off-duty deputy’s heroic efforts save child, man from drowning.

January 5, 2016
Greiner, Joe and Wilson, Braidan

Contributed photo of Joe Greiner and Braidan Wilson taken approximately one year ago.

By Allison Scarbrough. Contributing Editor.

HART — Mason County Sheriff’s deputy Brandon Romero’s quick thinking saved a local man and a 6-year-old boy from drowning on the west side of the Hart Dam Saturday morning, Jan. 2.

Romero got up early that chilly morning with outside temperatures in the mid-20s to hit a few different spots to do some steelhead fishing. The off-duty police officer put his law enforcement expertise to use when he saved the lives of Braidan Wilson and Joe Greiner who fell into the icy-cold waters near the dam at approximately 10 a.m. The young boy fell into the freezing water when the sled he was riding slid into the water.

“I saw a little kid in reverse heading for the dam; he hit a rock; smashed into a steel pole; and went into the water by the turbines,” Romero said. “I hung over the edge and grabbed the little guy who was struggling face-down in the water. The turbines were running, and the currents were fast.”

The other person in the water was Romero’s high school friend and baseball teammate, Joe Greiner. They both played baseball for Hart High School, where Romero was a stand-out and went on to a semi-professional career in the sport.

“We immediately recognized each other,” Romero said. “Joe was up to his neck in water. I was frantically thinking of what to do when I remembered I had a fish stringer in my vest, which I threw to him.”

Romero pulled Greiner out of the water with the fish stringer after hoisting young Braidan from the chilly water. “Getting me out was harder,” Greiner said. “I was in over my head.”

“Joe went into the water to save the kid, so he’s just as much of a hero to save that little boy. I’m happy I was able to save both of them.

“I had to act fast — I went into survival mode,” Romero said. “There was no way I was going to allow them to drown.”

Romero said both Greiner and Braidan were “as white as paper” when they got out of the water, and Braidan was bleeding from the head due to hitting the steel pole.

“I threw the boy over my shoulder and ran to the top of the hill to Carla Inglis’ house.” At the house, they were able to warm up, and Braidan was then taken by his mother to Mercy Health Lakeshore Campus in Shelby. Braidan received two stitches to his ear, Greiner said. Greiner required no medical treatment, he said.

“I’m pretty darn thankful and lucky,” Greiner said. “Brandon has always been a friend of mine. He is the biggest, strongest person I know. It was the worst-case scenario followed by the best-case scenario.”

Greiner said he took Braidan and his brothers, who are his stepchildren from a previous marriage, to go sledding. Braidan’s older brother went down the hill first, and he jumped off his sled prior to it landing in the water. Little Braidan immediately followed the older boy but did not jump off since he was headed down the hill backwards. “The oldest boy couldn’t wait, and his little brother followed him. It happened real quick,” Greiner said.

Life rings are available at the site, Greiner said, but he thinks they are located too far away from the river. He thinks the life rings should be relocated by the City of Hart where they are more easily accessible and visible. “They need to be below the dam,” he said. “They are out of view.”

Greiner also believes that if there is a designated sledding area at the dam, accidents like these would be preventable. “The next person may not be so lucky,” he said. Romero also suggested that the city could put up an orange snow fence to prevent any further accidents. He also advises sledders to say further west of the dam.

Romero said he experienced an event that will stay in his memory for the rest of his life. “It was pretty intense,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to be there. I’ll never forget the look in their eyes.”

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