SCOTIA — Meka Bonsie-Machin and two friends had planned to go fishing in Collins Lake Tuesday afternoon, but they didn’t have enough fishing poles, so they were “just walking around” near the Collins Park beach.
Then the unexpected happened to the three eighth-graders in the Scotia-Glenville School District, who had only planned to enjoy a warm spring day during school break.
A man who Meka said “seemed really off” spoke to them about going into the lake, and then he walked into the water. He headed out several dozen yards and then abruptly went under. The man’s mother, who was at the scene, then went into the lake after him, but quickly was yelling “Help!”, because she said she couldn’t swim.
One of the teens, Ava Horton, 14, called 911. As police arrived, which the teens said didn’t take long, Bonsie-Machin, also 14, went into the water to help. The water isn’t deep, but the lake bottom is muddy and covered with debris. He was able to pull both the 36-year-old man and his mother to shore. The third friend, Emily St. John, 14, also went in the water and helped bring them to land.
Scotia police continue investigating what they described as a near-drowning on the southeastern end of Collins Lake around 2:50 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. In addition to Ava Horton’s call, police said the victim’s mother had called them before he went in the water, asking them to check on the man’s welfare because of possible drug use.
Police said the 36-year-old Rotterdam resident unconscious and was given CPR at the scene, was revived and taken to Ellis Hospital for treatment. The man, who they would not identify, was under the influence of drugs, they said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Scotia police said the man was hospitalized and in a coma.
The teens who helped with the rescue visited the Scotia Police Department Wednesday afternoon and returned to Collins Park to recount what happened.
“I took off my shirt and just had on my tank-top and pants,” Boncie-Machin said. “At first I walked out, and I was getting cuts and bruises on my feet, then I started swimming. It was really muddy.”
The skinny teenager reached the unconscious man and the struggling mother and pulled them toward shore, mostly walking, until his friend Emily walked out to help. A police officer entered the water and helped complete the rescue. Ashore, paramedics shooed the teens away while they worked successfully to revive the man.
Boncie-Machin said he felt confused and tired immediately afterward. A woman who had witnessed the entire incident told him he was a hero.
“My body started seizing up for like an hour because I was carrying these people and they kept going under,” he said. “I kept really sinking in the mud.”
Meka’s mother expressed admiration for her son’s actions.
“I’m still kind of in shock from it all,” Rayn Boncie of Glenville said. “What he did was extremely admirable, and I’m not surprised. You always wonder what you’ll do in a situation like that, and now he knows. He’s a man.”
Police confirmed the teens’ account. “I am very appreciative of [Boncie-Machin’s] assistance yesterday and I commend him for his actions.” Scotia Police Chief Pete Fresoni said.
Collins Lake is off-limits for swimming. The beach in Collins Park has been closed due to turbidity in the water since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.