Springfield man recounts trying to save drowning man in Lake Springfield

Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 4:59 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - For the first time, the man who jumped into Lake Springfield to try to save another last week from drowning is speaking out.

Robert Harlin was at Lake Springfield on May 31, fishing with his mom, when he heard someone jump into the lake. He noticed the man, John Hance, struggled to swim, so he jumped in to help. Within seconds he realized the water was freezing cold.

“Like as soon as I came back up out of the water from diving in-- my legs didn’t work,” he says.

He pushed through and swam out to Hance. The pair battled to keep Hance above water.

“Me and him tried to fight to keep him up for a good six minutes,” Harlin says. “And the last time I was able to grab for him, he was already sinking, and I reached down for whatever I could grab, and it was just his necklace, and it broke in my hand from the weight of him being pulled down.”

Harlin says that he didn’t think he’d survive if he went underwater to help him. So he had to swim back to shore.

“It was whenever I had to turn around to swim back. I was completely defeated. I could feel it. My heart broke in that moment,” he says.

Shawntel Robertson with Diventures says that our body loses heat four times faster in the water. She says that grabbing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket is a good idea no matter how warm it is outside if you’re swimming.

The life jacket can help insulate your body heat and allow you not to move as much in the water to stay afloat.

“If you’re too far from shore, moving also causes the body to cool faster. So it’s going to speed up your hyperthermia,” Robertsons says.

The Springfield Fire Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol’s water rescue teams located Hance’s body around 8:45 p.m. on May 31.

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