On Friday, Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry recognized an off-duty firefighter who saved a young woman from drowning. Lt. Paul Chavez was named this week’s Friday’s Hero. Each week Mayor Berry recognizes at least one public safety employee who goes above the call of duty.
“So often our firefighters are being recognized for things they did while off duty,” Mayor Berry said. “It says a lot about their character and their commitment to public safety.”
On July 22, Chavez was fishing at Elephant Butte Lake when he noticed a young woman struggling to swim.
Chavez drove his boat to the woman and asked her if she was OK. The woman screamed, “No, I can’t swim anymore.” Chavez immediately threw the girl a life vest from his boat. But the young woman was so exhausted from swimming she could not grab onto the life vest. So, Chavez put his boat in neutral and dove into the water. He grabbed onto the woman, helped her swim to the life vest and eventually brought her to shore.
The woman was uninjured. She told Chavez the wind had blown her volleyball into the lake and she was trying to get it back. While she was trying to swim to the ball, the waves and wind had pulled her away from the shore.
“It is likely this young woman would have drowned had it not been for Lt. Chavez,” Chief James Breen said. “There was no one in sight and no one else who could have helped her.”