OREM, Utah — Had Orem police Officer Chris Watson waited to take his gun belt off before jumping into the Provo River, the unconscious woman floating in the current probably would have died.
"I didn't have time to do anything," Watson said. "I just had to go out and grab her."
Watson and another officer rescued the 25-year-old woman from drowning Saturday morning after she dropped from a bridge almost 20 feet into the river.
Watson spotted the woman floating down the middle of the river in the dark around 5:55 a.m., said Orem police Lt. Doug Edwards. Watson jumped from the bank with his gun belt and uniform still on.
"As embarrassing as it sounds, I did," he said.
The water was swift and cold and the woman nearly passed by him.
Watson managed to grab the woman and keep her head above water. With the help of officer Delwin Davis, he dragged the woman about 15 feet to the shore.
She was unconscious with shallow breathing but felt ''lifeless," Watson said.
Watson and Davis had driven to the bridge at 800 South near Carterville Road after the woman's husband called to report his wife had slit her wrists and tried to swallow a handful of Tylenol. As officers responded, the husband told dispatch his wife was threatening to jump from the bridge. When Davis and Watson arrived, the man was hanging onto his wife, who was dangling in midair over the river.
The husband then lost his grip and his wife plunged between 15 and 20 feet into the river.
After Watson and Davis rescued the woman, she was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center where she regained consciousness. She was later released.
Watson said that during his 12 year career as a police officer, it was the first time he ever had to get into the river.
"Any officer that would have been there would have responded the same way," Watson said. "I just happened to be there."
Watson drove home in his wet clothes when his shift ended 30 minutes later.
"I believe these two officers' actions in this incident are noteworthy and deserving of praise," Edwards said. "They acted quickly, decisively and professionally to avert what might have become a tragedy."