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The Philadelphia Daily News
August 8th, 2005
Dragon Boat Rowers Save Jumper
By G.W. MILLER II
Photos by Joseph Kaczmarek
Challengers Dragon Boat team members help a man they rescued from the Schuylkill
Every day, the members of the Challengers Dragon Boat team are special.
Yesterday, they were heroes.
The Challengers, a team of paddlers with Down syndrome, were beginning their return trip toward Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill after a long practice when team members saw a man standing on the Girard Avenue Bridge around 4 p.m.
Then they saw him jump.
“He flew like a bird and then, splash,” said Carol Lee Lindner, the team’s paddling coach and mother of team captain Alexis Lindner.
The team paddled their cumbersome, 30-foot-long, double hull, practice canoe until they were alongside the man, who was flailing and bobbing in the river.
“I wasn’t scared, “said paddler Christian White, 15. “I felt brave.”
“The kids were great,” said Lindner. “They stayed calm and followed orders.”
Police tied a rope to the 40-year old man, whose name was not released, and pulled him on to land. He was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital.
He was trying to kill himself, police believe.
But the Challengers, who are between the ages of 15 and 30, saved his life.
Lindner said that the man kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Thank you.”
Police did not know why he had wanted to commit suicide. Before he jumped, he was talking into a cell phone and yelling while standing on the river side of the bridge fence.
He was fortunate that the Challengers were that far up the river yesterday. The team usually leaves its launch from Lloyd Hall, just west of the Art Museum, and turns around well before Girard Avenue.
No other boats were in the area.
Joan Turek and Carol Lee Lindner hold on to a man who is exhausted from having nearly drowned.
“I love to hear the roar of the crowd,” said Lindner’s daughter Alexis, 30.
The Philadelphia version of the 2,400-year-old Chinese tradition was the brainchild of Carol Lee Lindner. The first competition here had 42 entries.
This years festival has 128 teams, the maximum that can run the race in one day, Lindner said.
“Their timing is coming along nicely,” she said of the Challengers. “But the idea is to get these children out into society, to let people know what a gift they are.”
Alexis Lindner volunteers with Alzheimer’s patients. Christian White recently won gold medals for swimming in the Pennsylvania Special Olympics.
Team members Drew Dolan and Dan Drinker, and volunteer paddlers Frank Kelly, Joan Turek, Hubert White, Chandler White and Sue Dolan, also helped with the rescue yesterday.
“Now, I’m famous!” said Drinker, 20. “The whole team’s famous!”
Christa Bergman White, Christian’s mother, said, “You could have a boat full of typical people and they wouldn’t’ have reacted as calm as these kids did today.”