A 69-year-old fisherman anchored his boat in the Susquehanna River near the Dock Street dam last week, hoping to reel in the big one.
Instead, his small anchor broke loose from the silt and his boat was sucked into the backwash below the low-head dam, an area known as a drowning machine.
Few people escape the violent underwater death trap created by the fast-moving water plunging over the dam. The dam in Harrisburg alone has claimed 17 lives over 20 years. As the fisherman's boat capsized at the dam, he grabbed ahold of it at just the right moment to keep his head above water. But the river savagely churned all around him, submerging his 12-foot boat and ripping off all of his clothes, including his socks and shoes.
It happened so fast, six fishermen under the bridge along the Riverwalk missed it.
But a railroad employee working on the West Shore spotted the trapped man and heard his cries for help. The employee summoned Harrisburg firefighters, who swarmed the dam and launched a daring rescue effort May 26.