Witnesses Overcome Language Barrier By Using Rocks To Direct Rescue Crews

Man Who Drowned In St. Joseph River Was 18 (VIDEO & PHOTOS)

By Emma Koch

May 30, 2013 Updated Dec 2, 2013 at 5:16 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) - An 18-year-old man drowned in the St. Joseph River Thursday evening despite rescue efforts along Griswold Avenue.

The Allen County Coroner has identified the man as Sah Yah Alan.

Just after 6:00, dive crews were called to the 1800 block of Griswold near Riverview Terrace Rentals, on a report of man in the water.

When rescuers arrived, language barriers between witnesses and crews briefly hindered the search.

"Witnesses were not able to communicate in English with our divers," Chief Amy Biggs of the Fort Wayne Fire Department says. "They formulated where they last saw him by throwing a rock into the river and triangulating exactly where to find that individual."

Riverview Terrace has a large Burmese community; but, it is unknown what language the man needing rescued or the witnesses speak.

The Department of Natural Resources reported that Alan was submerged in the water for at least 18 minutes and as rescue teams pulled him out, he was unresponsive.

He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

It was unknown how Alan got in the water, but the chief says this is a yet another reminder to take precautions around water.

"The rules are never to swim alone, always have somebody there, always have acknowledgement of where you're going to be and when you're expected to return," she says.

Though the Fort Wayne Fire Department, Fort Wayne Police Department and Three Rivers Ambulance Authority were first responders, the investigation has been handed over to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources because it was a water rescue.

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