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‘I couldn’t watch her drown’: Snoqualmie firefighter, cop honored for risky river rescue

Snoqualmie Firefighter Darby Summers, second from left, holds the Medal of Valor that he received for efforts rescuing Lindsay Grennan, center, from the Snoqualmie River. Next to her is Sean Abscher, who received a Medal of Merit for his part in the rescue. With them are, from left, Fire Chief Bob Rowe and, far right, Police Chief Jim Schaffer. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Snoqualmie Firefighter Darby Summers, second from left, holds the Medal of Valor that he received for efforts rescuing Lindsay Grennan, center, from the Snoqualmie River. Next to her is Sean Abscher, who received a Medal of Merit for his part in the rescue. With them are, from left, Fire Chief Bob Rowe and, far right, Police Chief Jim Schaffer.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Firefighters have a saying: Risk a little to save a little, risk a lot to save a lot.

Snoqualmie Firefighter Darby Summers put his life on the line in the cold waters of the Snoqualmie to save the life of Lindsay Grennan.

For that action, Summers received the highest award that a city firefighter can receive, the Medal of Valor, from Chief Bob Rowe, presented at a June 13 ceremony at City Hall.

His voice broke as he told the story of the Sunday, May 22, rescue. That day, Grennan and her boyfriend, John Sharrar of Bothell, were caught in the Snoqualmie River’s powerful current after going into the water in an attempt to rescue their dogs, who appeared to be struggling in the river.

Sharrar was lost—his body was found by searchers days later. Summers, reacting as quickly as possible, barely managed to save Grennan.

“It was a cold nightmare out there,” Summers said during Monday’s ceremony. “In the true sense of the word, she is a survivor... She had the willpower to keep fighting.”

“Truly, what you did was amazing,” he told her. “You and your baby are destined for greater things.”

The decisions that Summers made in his first 10 seconds at the scene determined whether Grennan would live. Arriving at the river’s edge near Fall City, he saw her struggling to stay afloat. Instead of taking the time to don swim gear, he grabbed a life vest and dove into the current.

As he neared, Grennan went under for the last time. Summers reached down, felt her hair, then pulled her up. She took a breath. Now, he just had to make it to shore—a daunting task as hypothermia and exaustion set in.

Luckily, Snoqualmie Police Officer Sean Abscher was ready and waiting. While not dispatched to the scene, Abscher knew the river— and knew his presence might be needed. Arriving, he saw what was happening and predicted where the current would sweep Summers. He positioned himself with a rope throw-bag, ready to toss it as the firefighter neared. That was exactly what happened, and Abscher was there to pull the swimmers to safety.

The Medal of Valor is given to firefighters who perform an act far above and beyond the call of duty, at considerable risk to themselves, and with a high degree of initiative.

This is the first ever given to a Snoqualmie firefighter.

Meeting after the ceremony, Summers and Grennan have developed a bond for life.

“I’m glad to meet him,” she said. “I wanted to say ‘Thank you.’”

“I didn’t feel like I was risking my life,” said Summers, who didn’t feel the river’s cold until he was out of the water. “I couldn’t stand there and watch her drown.”

For his part in the rescue, Abscher receives the Medal of Merit. Both men received the Mayor’s Lifesaving Award and Commendation. They were loudly applauded by a large gathering of locals and blue- and black-uniformed firefighters and police filling the council chamber.

“I’m glad it was you that day,” Summers told Abscher. “Thanks for bringing us home.”

Police Chief Jim Schaffer said Abscher’s example shows the quality of Snoqualmie officers’ training and effort.

“Sean is a local guy. He knows the area, knows how to do police work. He doesn’t need to be told.”

For his part, Abscher believes that every one of his fellow police officers would have done the same.

“We’re all in the same boat,” he said. “It’s why we come to work every day.”

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