Thursday, December 5, 2013
Video from WGME-TV Monday night news
PORTLAND – A Biddeford mother who risked her life to save a drowning elderly woman was honored Monday night by the Portland City Council and Mayor Michael Brennan.
Katie Nelson was one of six civilians, two police officers and three firefighters who rescued 84-year-old Ursula Nixon after she drove her car into Portland Harbor last month.
Brennan recognized all of them for their heroic actions but singled out the 32-year-old Nelson for pulling Nixon out of her sinking car and Lt. Robert Slaving of the Portland Fire Department for swimming to shore with Nixon.
Police said that Nixon's Nissan sped down India Street on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 28, plunging through two chainlink fences and a guardrail before landing in the water between the Ocean Gateway Terminal and the Maine State Pier.
Nelson was dining on sushi at the Benkay Japanese restaurant on India Street with her friend Samantha Thorne when she rushed outside to check on the crash she had heard.
Nelson, who works at a group home for disabled people operated by Community Partners, did not hesitate. She ran down India Street, dived into the harbor, and swam to the partially submerged car.
"I knew I had to do something," she said.
Nelson crawled into the car through its shattered rear window and found Nixon floating inside. She grabbed both her hands.
"She was scared," Nelson recalled, as she spoke outside the City Hall council chambers Monday night. "I just told her to hold my hands."
Another civilian, 44-year-old Chris Allen of Auburn, had swum to the roof of the car and when he saw Nelson go inside he positioned himself on the trunk of the vehicle.
Allen grabbed Nelson's legs and with Nixon in tow was able to pull them out of the sinking car.
"Katie had a death grip on her," Allen said.
After Nixon had been safely moved to shore by police and fire personnel, Nelson returned to the restaurant where her friend had been waiting.
"She said, 'Why are you so wet?' " said Nelson, who was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.
Nelson said she was unable to remain at the scene to speak with police because her two children, 13-year-old Jeremy and 7-year-old Cindy, were due to arrive home on their school buses.
Nixon's niece, Catherine Shorr of Portland, praised everyone for their heroism.
Shorr works on the switchboard at Brighton Medical Center.
She did not know until sometime later on the day of the accident that her aunt had been admitted as a patient.
When Shorr went to visit Nixon, the first thing she said was, "I'm so upset. I just got my hair done."
Nixon had surgery on her leg and is recovering from her injuries, Shorr said.
Brennan read a proclamation honoring Nelson and Slaving as well as Allen, Dana Eastman, Edward McCaron, Dan McMillan and Michael Wells – all civilians – as well as police officers Sam Turner and Matt Pavlis, and firefighters David Carter and Dan Hassler.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org