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Quick-acting Litchfield woman jumps into canoe and paddles to rescue of kayaker

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 23. 2014 10:08AM

LITCHFIELD — When Luanna  Vollmer's son told her there was a man in the Merrimack River yelling for help, she didn't hesitate.

After telling a 911 operator what was happening, she donned a life vest, got into her canoe and paddled after the man she said was clinging to his overturned kayak.

"I just paddled out there as quick as I could," she said Tuesday night.

Without her assistance, the man could have died, Fire Chief Frank Fraitzl said.

"She truly did save his life," he said. "I commend her for taking the risk to go out to help him."

 Vollmer said she was working in her home office on Riverview Circle when her son, William, 12, told her about the man. Had it not been for him, "I never would have known he was there," she said.

She reached the man —  Vollmer said she never learned his name and Fraitzl said he did not know the man's name — and threw him a rope. She said she wasn't too worried about her ability in the water.

"I've lived on this river for 14 years and lived around water my whole life," she said.

Her only worry was that, if he was panicked, the man, who was not wearing a flotation device, would try to climb in.

"You can't have someone climb into a canoe" from the water, she said. "The only concern I had was if I could make it back if he dumped me as well."

She was able to tow him to shore, where firefighters arrived to bring him up the bank, she said.

"He had just enough strength to hold onto the rope," she said. When they arrived on shore, "he had zero energy left."

But before firefighters could speak with her, Parker had already begun paddling home, she and Fraitzl said.

Fraitzl said he is hoping to contact  Vollmer to thank her for her actions. He said the man she rescued was taken to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua for treatment.

"We're certainly very appreciative of her," he said. "If she hadn't helped him, I don't think he would have been able to make it to shore."

 Vollmer said she is happy she was able to save the man.

"It feels good," she said.

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