Woman rescued from Detroit River reunited with her heroes

The Detroit Mayor and Police Department honored the first responders and Good Samaritans who saved the life of a woman and her unborn baby from the Detroit River as they were all reunited for the first time.

Jeff Calloway was fishing late on April 17th on the pier, but wasn't catching anything. He was about to leave for the night when a voice told him not to go.

"It's a miracle - God was on scene," Calloway said. "Something said don't leave without making sure that sister is out of the park because the park was actually closed."

He was right to listen to that instinct. Ethel Woodger fell into the water that cold night and he was her first hero. He discovered she had fallen in the water and he threw her a coat to hold on to before he ran to tell someone else to call for help. Then he ran back and held out a branch but Ethel was losing her grip.

"You bit my coat after a while because you couldn't hold on," Calloway said.

By that time, Detroit Police Officers Brian Gadwell and Stephen Rauser were on the scene to help pull the woman.

"When she started going under at that point I had to jump in and it was cold," Gadwell recalls. "She told me she loved me and I said I love you too or I wouldn't be in here with you."

Officer Gadwell wrapped his legs around Ethel and held on to rebar that was sticking out of the pier. But the cold grips of the frigid water make it harder for him to keep his grip. He was thought this was going to be the end.


"For a minute and a half I was like I'm going to die," he said. "That's when I looked at my partner and said I can't hang on no more - he jumped in and saved me."

Now Officer Rauser was in the water too. Three people in and Captain Ryan Gazdecki from the JW Wescott got behind the wheel and brought it over to the area and medic Chris Ward jumped in too.

"The fire department tied a lifeline around me," Ward said. "I jumped in and got the life ring around her and they were able to pull us onto the boat."

When they pulled Ethel from the water and onto the boat, it was only then that they realized she was pregnant.

Hours later, she gave birth via c-section to baby E-Jean. He arrived a few months early but is healthy as can be.

Ethel says while in the water, she only thought of her two children at home and the baby she was carrying.

"I just lost my mom, there was no way I was going to let them lose theirs," she said.


Now, three weeks later, she's able to finally meet and thank everyone who helped save her life. The officers even brough gifts for the new baby, but Officer Gadwell got the best gift of all. Baby E-Jean's middle name is his first name: Brian.

"Those arms are angels arms. I'm so grateful to have all of you... Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate all that you did," Ethel said.

As a result of this near death experience, the fire department has now ordered flotation devices for crews responding to the river so this doesn't happen again.