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CHICAGO (CBS) – The family of a man who was pulled out of the Chicago River last week by a first-time kayaker and Chicago police divers said the rescue was an act of “divine intervention.”
Andrew Pitts fell into the Chicago River last week while sitting on a railing along the Chicago Riverwalk near the Clark Street bridge.
Emanuel Gonzalez, 17, was passing by at the time with a group of kayakers. When people on the shore yelled out that someone had fallen into the water, Gonzalez grabbed Pitts and held his head above water until a Chicago Police Marine Unit boat arrived, and a police diver pulled Pitts into the boat.
Pitts was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he’s been recovering ever since, and his family said Tuesday night that they are forever grateful for what Gonzalez did.
Pitts’ younger sister Tracy said her brother was under sedation until Saturday, “and every day after that he’s been progressing by leaps and bounds, and we’re talking to him just like we would any other day. It’s just been amazing.”
His wife, Nohemi Salazar-Pitts said the family believes the rescue was a “miracle.”
“This could not have happened without divine intervention,” she said.
Pitts and his wife are both court reporters in Chicago. They’ve been together for seven years and have two children.
The family still isn’t sure exactly why Andrew fell into the water, but they’re still waiting for the results of some blood tests and other medical tests to determine if there was a medical reason he fell off a railing on the riverwalk and into the water.
Tracy said her brother was not awake when Gonzalez stopped by to visit after the accident, but he has met Police Officer Mark Jaeger, the diver who pulled him out of the river.
“It’s been surreal, and wonderful, and we just can’t thank them enough,” she said.
She said her brother’s memory of the accident is still “a bit hazy.”
Tracy said both she and her brother hope to speak to Gonzalez soon.
“I’m just going to hug him,” she said. “Talking comes later, but we just all want to give him a hug.”
“It’s great, I mean it’s unbelievable that they’re doing this for us,” Salazar-Pitts said. “They’re beautiful people. Everyone who’s been involved is beautiful. It’s great to see the community come together and help; sometimes strangers, because a lot of people don’t know us.”
She said the family is hoping for a full reunion with both Gonzalez and the Police Marine Unit team that rescued Andrew once he recovers.
“We want to get them all together and thank them for everything they’ve done for us,” she said.