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Aspiring firefighter learns what it's like

10/7/98

11-year-old saves student from drowning

Like father, like son.

It played out in dramatic fashion Tuesday at a Mesa canal when a firefighter's son persevered in rescuing a kindergartner who was waist-deep in mud and sinking.

"I could just tell he was so scared," said Tanner DuBois, 11. "He was trembling. I didn't want him to get carried away by the rapids."

Ryan Gant, 5, was walking home from school Tuesday afternoon when he slipped into the canal near Adobe Street and Val Vista Drive.

"I was trying to get a big rock, and I fell in there," Ryan said.

The little boy clung to the mossy side and screamed for help.

"Help me! Help me! " Tanner heard as he was biking home from school, after staying late to help a teacher rearrange some tables.

Tanner dropped his bike and flagged down his teacher, who happened to be in a car behind him, to call for help.

"I couldn't really see anything, but it was so close," Tanner said of the screams.

"Then I saw something really big in the water. I thought it was a log that floats. When I got over here, I knew it was a kid.

"I got on my stomach, but I couldn't reach him."

At the same time, another boy realized he was too small to pull Ryan to safety and ran "faster than I've ever ran before" for help.

"I was scared to death," said Jacob Sexton, 8. "I thought he was going to drown."

Mesa Fire Battalion Chief Gil Damiani said it was a close call.

"Another couple minutes and we're talking a fatality," Damiani said.

Ryan's fingertips barely touched Tanner's hand. They kept slipping from his reach. Tanner could see the scrapes in the moss where Ryan had tried to claw his way out.

A couple of times, the little boy's mouth went underwater.

"I was going to drown way down there," Ryan said later.

Tanner persisted, never giving a thought to the fact that he, too, could fall in.

"The biggest thing is not to panic," he said, "because then you can't do anything."

Tanner got closer to the water, which is 10 feet deep, so his own head was only about six inches away from the current.

Then, he grabbed Ryan's wrists and yanked him to safety.

"It's going to be OK," Tanner reassured Ryan while the two waited for firefighters to arrive. "It's going to be OK."

"I saw him in the firetruck, and I thanked God he's OK," Jacob said. "I'm never going to go by the canal anymore."

"I was scared to death," said Linda Gant, Ryan's mom. "We're going to find a new way home from school tomorrow."

Gant called Tanner a hero and a role model for her son.

"I don't really want to say I was a hero," Tanner, an aspiring fire fighter, said afterward. "I was just trying to help someone, so they wouldn't die.

"I learned from my dad. If I see someone in danger, I always want to help." But it was Dad who was doing most of the admiring Tuesday evening.

"I have a son who did the right thing," said Mike DuBois, a Mesa Fire Department captain. "I'm really proud of Tanner.... This is a good day. Everybody came out OK."

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Written by: Judi Villa
Photo by: Christine Keith
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic

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