Members of the Elyria Fire Department use a rope system Tuesday evening to rescue a woman from the Black River. The woman went into the water behind 121 Harrison Street after a 61-year-old man, who tumbled over a 50-foot embankment while riding a lawn tractor. Authorities said the man died as a result.
ELYRIA — An Elyria man is dead after falling over a 50-foot cliff into the Black River on Tuesday evening while riding a lawn tractor.
The Elyria Fire Department received a call about 5:45 p.m. for a man in the river in the 100 block of Harrison Street, according to Assistant Fire Chief Joe Pronesti. When first responders arrived on scene, they found a woman clinging to the man, holding him up in the chest-deep waters.
“We had a firefighter medic rappel down and was in the water within minutes,” Pronesti said. “I am really proud of how quickly my guys got moving and got down there.”
Pronesti confirmed neighbors’ speculation that the man had been driving a lawn tractor when it flipped over the edge of the embankment into the east branch of the Black River. The 61-year-old man was dead when first responders arrived, Pronesti said.
“When we arrived on scene, they were both in the water and she was holding him. Our concern was rescuing both of them,” Pronesti said. “Once our medic got down there and determined that he was deceased, I felt the best course of action was to have the boat that we had launched get him.”
He said his team then put the 55-year-old woman in a harness and hoisted her up the 50-foot embankment, getting her out of the ravine in about 10 minutes. She was unharmed.
In a video of the woman’s rescue captured by The Chronicle-Telegram, she is walked to a stretcher and was alert and talking to first responders. She reportedly refused medical treatment on scene and did not want to be taken to the hospital.
Pronesti said he was told the woman had found a trail to get down to the river’s edge in an attempt to rescue the man.
“Our job is to rescue, we don’t care how you got down there,” he said.
The man’s body was taken to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans said the man had been in the water for about two hours, and the cause of death is suspected to be a combination of the tractor rolling down the cliff and drowning.
“According to rescue squad … it appeared he was in full rigor, which takes two hours,” Evans said.
Pronesti said water rescues from that area of the Black River aren’t uncommon, given the steep drop into the water.
“Because of the terrain and the river, especially (in) that area of Washington Avenue, we have a lot of rope rescues that we train for,” he said.
Mary Murphy, of Elyria, said she was inside baking when she saw first responders arrive, closing off the street.
“We thought it was at our house … This neighborhood’s usually very quiet,” she said.
Elyria Fire Department received mutual aid from Avon, North Ridgeville and Sheffield fire departments.