SALEM — A tranquil summer day fishing on the Salem Willows pier turned chaotic on Friday when a man who couldn't swim fell into the water.
The crowd of people on the pier watched as the 30-year-old Peabody man yelled for help.
"There was 60 to 70 people on the pier and nobody was doing anything so I took the initiative," said Paul Pinto, 48, of Medford. "I took off my shirt, shoes and gave my wife my cell and told my wife to call 911."
Pinto, who was spending the day fishing with his wife, jumped in the harbor and helped guide the man, Dale McNulty, toward a nearby floating dock and then pulled him out of the water.
Pinto told the harbormaster he saw as McNulty fall off the pier as he was leaning over the edge attempting to free his fishing line, which became hung up on the piling, according to the harbormaster's report.
McNulty fell about 10 feet into the water and began yelling for help.
Pinto said some people were laughing.
"They thought he was joking. There was no joke about it," Pinto said.
After Pinto jumped in, he said he gave McNulty a choice: "Doggy paddle or drown. Put one hand in the front of the other and start doggy paddling.
Pinto helped McNulty to a nearby floating dock. McNulty was too tired to climb up so Pinto got on the dock himself and pulled the man up and out of the water to the dock.
"He was out of breath," Pinto said. "He thought he was going to die."
Pinto said McNulty thanked him for "stepping up."
"'I'm glad I got you out of the water.' That's all I could say," Pinto responded.
Salem Assistant Harbormaster Steve Levesque responded to the Willows, as did Salem police Sgt. Harry Rocheville, to the Willows.
Pinto and McNulty were brought to the harbormaster's patrol boat and taken to Willows Yacht Club and Salem firefighters responded. McNulty was treated and released.