Off-duty firefighter rescues man in Diversey Harbor

WGNBill Miller

Off-duty Chicago firefighter Bill Miller was in the right place at the right time, rescuing a fellow fisherman who fell into Diversey Harbor late Wednesday afternoon.

Miller held Chuck Wahtola, a 67-year-old retired engineer from Joliet, tightly against the dock, put a float under his head and a rope around his body until firefighters and divers arrived to help.

"I was afraid I would lose him," Miller told WGN-TV. "I was afraid he would lose consciousness and that he wouldn't (be able to) pull some of his weight."

Around 3:45 p.m., Wahtola was trying to get up from his folding chair on the dock when it slipped out from under him, causing him to fall into the 33-degree water. He screamed for help, and Miller, a 6-year fire department veteran, went into rescue mode, then called 911 for help.

Wahtola was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in serious-to-critical condition, but was expected to fully recover.

Julie Unruh is a WGN-TV reporter. Deanese Williams-Harris is a Tribune reporter.

dawilliams@tribune.com

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