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Josie Green, 18, a freshman at Minnesota State University Moorhead, has been called a heroine by Moorhead law enforcement officers after she rescued a 25-year-old man from the Red River on Friday afternoon. David Samson / The Forum

'Incredible courage': 18-year-old heroine rescues man from Red River

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An 18-year-old college student with average swimming skills and no water-rescue training jumped into the cold Red River on Friday afternoon to try to save a man from drowning.

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Josie Green, a Minnesota State University Moorhead freshman in graphic communications, remained modest about her efforts Friday evening, even as Moorhead law enforcement officers called her "courageous" and "heroic."

"You just do what you have to do," Green said from her Nelson Hall dorm room.

Police have not yet released the name or condition of the victim, a 25-year-old Moorhead man who is being treated at Fargo MeritCare Hospital.

Green was jogging along the bike path in Riverfront Park when she noticed a couple of men standing on the riverbank and calling for help.

At first, Green said, she was hesitant to approach them because they seemed inebriated. Then she noticed a third man floundering in the river current.

The other men, who didn't have cell phones and couldn't swim, asked Green if she could call 911.

The victim, his brother and a friend had been walking on the Burlington Northern railroad bridge between downtown Moorhead and Fargo when the victim accidentally fell off the bridge and dropped 20 feet into the river below.

The bridge is not built for pedestrian traffic and alcohol was a factor in the incident, said Sgt. Deric Swenson of the Moorhead Police Department.

When Green saw the man was in trouble, she jumped into the river. "He didn't seem too far out," she said. "It was just easier to go in."

Green said she was surprised by how cold the water was, but kept swimming toward the man, who was "15 to 20 feet" from shore and gasping for air. By the time she reached him, he was unconscious and face down in the water.

Green said she held the man's face, which was turning blue, above water as she tried to gain enough strength to get him toward shore. After moving him to shallower water, she asked the other men to hold his head above water as she called police.

Moorhead police officers, Clay County sheriff's deputies and Moorhead firefighters responded to the scene. They used a rescue line to pull the man to shore and performed CPR on him before transporting him to MeritCare, said Officer Scott Kostohryz.

Officers removed a bottle of Karkov vodka and a can of soda from the scene.

Moorhead police Lt. Chris Carey praised Green's role as a Good Samaritan. "She had incredible courage," he said. "I'm going to recommend that she get some recognition for this."

Swenson agreed. "For anyone to enter that river is extremely brave," he said. "If she hadn't been there, we don't know what the outcome would have been."

But even as the young woman's heroism was championed by police and the press, Green didn't seem to think her efforts were that extraordinary.

The young rescuer said she planned to stick to her weekend plans of driving home to Wilmot, S.D.

"My dad was pretty excited," she said. "He told me, 'Keep taking your vitamin C.' "

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