3 Fort Drum Soldiers Honored For Saving Woman


On April 21, before the fire department ever arrived, it was three soldiers who sprang into action.

They put their lives on the line after a canoe capsized in the frigid Black River near Watertown.

"I hear people running around screaming that people are drowning," said Private First Class Matthew Phillips. 

Phillips, a former lifeguard, grabbed a rope and swam out to the victims.

"Had some help from some people on shore holding the rope to make sure I wasn't going to float away too and grabbed a hold of the woman and they pulled me back in," said Phillips.

The soldiers' heroics in saving Lydia Villafranco have now earned them lifesaver awards from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

"Without hesitation and no worries for their own safety, they entered the water and rescued her," said Undersheriff Paul Trudeau. 

The soldiers didn't think much about what they were doing; military training kicked in.

"It was just try to help protect and do what we know how to do to save a life," said Specialist Christopher Grant. 

But the soldiers will never forget the one they were unable to get to in time that night, 24 year old John Villafranco, who drowned.

"It was a good feeling to have her, but it was rough not having him up there with her," said Private Second Class Trenton Brown.

Villafranco's body was recovered May 10.

See our original report

Saturday, December 3, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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