State police trooper braves chilly water to rescue woman

By Max Bryan
This article was published November 11, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

Arkansas State Police Cpl. Brandon Cook risked his own life to swim through the frigid waters of Lake Hamilton Thursday night to rescue a woman who apparently jumped from the south shore bridge on Central Avenue.

"Every state trooper takes an oath to protect property and life of the state of Arkansas," Cook said Friday as he stood on Long Island near the bridge's northern end, looking out over the area where the woman was rescued. "I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I didn't do that."

With temperatures in the upper 40s, Cook dove into the water from the south shore of the lake at around 8:45 p.m. Thursday to pull the woman out of the water.

Cook said he dove in because he was "in fear for her life."

Cook was dispatched to the bridge at around 8:30 p.m., after the woman was spotted dangling her feet off the west side of the bridge near its highest point. Cook and a state police sergeant who had also been dispatched to the call were on the scene within 10 minutes.

"'Please don't jump' was my thought. 'Just don't do this,'" Cook said.

Cook and the state police sergeant, who were the first emergency responders to arrive, were met by a group of civilians near the Belle of Hot Springs at the west tip of Long Island.

"When I got out of the car, they said, 'She's jumped, she's jumped,'" Cook said.

State police and an Entergy Arkansas Inc. worker shone a light in the waters west of the bridge, where the woman had reportedly jumped. They were unable to see her.

Cook then looked in the water on the east side of the bridge, knowing that Lake Hamilton's current travels west to east. He saw the woman floating, unresponsive, in the lake.

"We hollered and screamed at her, 'Can you swim? Can you swim?'" Cook said. "She went down, came up, started coughing, but she couldn't move. That water was cold, and I was thinking her muscles had seized up by that time."

The Entergy employee led him down to the southern shoreline of the lake, along the east side of the bridge.

"There was no way she was gonna make it by herself, and there was nobody here to help out," Cook said. "No boats, nothing."

From there, Cook, who removed his outer clothing, jumped in and swam to the woman.

"It was cold," Cook said. Hot Springs' temperature was 48 degrees around the time of the rescue, according to National Weather Service.

Cook said the woman was "150 to 175 feet" from the section of shoreline where he jumped in the water. He noticed her face was pointing up out of the water when he got to her.

He "grabbed her by the collar" and swam her to a boat dock east of the bridge. He was met by a Garland County sheriff's deputy he knows personally.

"It was just the biggest relief to see him, because honestly, I didn't think I was gonna make that last 20 feet," Cook said.

Once Cook and the woman were out of the water, Garland County sheriff's deputies took over the scene.

"I was just exhausted," Cook said. "Adrenaline was still kicking in, and I was starting to shake and shiver."

Cook was given blankets by EMTs and sat in the state police sergeant's car for warmth.

Cook said he was relieved and "glad she was OK" following the rescue. Information on why the woman jumped, or her medical condition, was unavailable Friday.

Local on 11/11/2017
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