Bruce Cornelius, of Walsh Construction, talks about a recent rescue that he performed for a kayaker in trouble near the Madison-Milton bridge construction site. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Bruce Cornelius, of Walsh Construction, talks about a recent rescue that he performed for a kayaker in trouble near the Madison-Milton bridge construction site. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
A Walsh Construction boat operator found himself in the right place at the right time when he pulled a man out of the Ohio River on Tuesday.

The man, who never gave his full name, was attempting to set an anchor when the kayak he was using capsized. The boater was not wearing a lifejacket, and the strong current immediately began sweeping him upstream.

That's when Walsh's Bruce Cornelius heard the calls for help and later spotted someone splashing around.

"I was going across the river and heard somebody yell, 'help,'" said Cornelius, who operates a crew boat and transports workers to piers and barges for the Madison-Milton bridge project. "And I ran over there to him."

As a boat operator, Cornelius has training for possible drowning and water rescue scenarios.

When Cornelius caught up with the man, he tossed out a rope and then a life preserver before easing the boater to a safer location. He estimates the boater was in the water for less than 10 minutes and had completely exhausted himself.

"It doesn't take long," Cornelius said. "It worked him over pretty good."

Soon, other Walsh workers came to the man's aid and pulled him into the boat.

"He was still so weak he couldn't pull himself up," Cornelius added.

Later, they even saved the kayak, which was filled with water. On the boat, Cornelius put a lifejacket on the boater and encouraged him to calm down.

"He was pretty distraught," he said.

Cornelius said the man eventually told workers he was planning to fish and had launched from the Milton boat dock, not far from where the boat tipped.

He thanked the workers and later left on his own after resting.

Cornelius noted that the elevated river levels and strong current on Tuesday easily overpowered the boater, who had decided not to wear a lifejacket.

"I'm sure a good lesson was learned," he said.