By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — A Boxford man is being heralded as a hero for saving the lives of an 11-year-old girl and her father who fell out of their canoe into Lake Gardner Tuesday night after the father allegedly drank several cans of beer.
Police say Douglas Cooke was piloting his kayak about a half-mile from shore around 6:50 p.m. when he saw 35-year-old Brian Brown of Orchard Street and his daughter fall into the chilly water.
According to Amesbury police Detective Robert Wile, Cooke was able to paddle over to the two as they flailed in the water, apparently unable to swim. The 11-year-old was wearing a life jacket, but it appeared that it wasn’t secured to her body properly. Eventually, the two victims were able to grab onto Cooke’s kayak. Cooke then paddled to the nearest shoreline, where he was met by Amesbury police and firefighters.
“Everyone said that if it wasn’t for him, they probably wouldn’t have made it,” Wile said. Cooke could not be reached for comment.
Making the rescue all the more improbable was the fact that it was nearly pitch-black around that part of the lake and that Brown had consumed several cans of beer, according to police. Wile said it is likely Brown was sober when he and his daughter pushed off from Lake Gardner Beach close to where he lives. But by the time they had paddled into the lake, he had drunk enough to become intoxicated.
“They were a good ways out there,” Wile said.
Wile said several empty beer cans were spotted floating around the capsized canoe.
Upon their return to shore, Brown was placed in protective custody and charged with reckless endangerment of a child under 18. Additional charges could be filed as police continue their investigation. The girl was reunited with her grandmother, her legal guardian, unharmed.
The Department of Children and Families was called, per procedure, and concluded that the child was in good hands with her grandmother, according to police.
Assisting firefighters at the scene Tuesday night were Amesbury police officers Jason Kooken, George Cavanaugh and Sgt. Michael Purvis.