Early Monday morning, Steven Arrasmith, 34, of Mesa, pulled over on the Interstate 84 Snake River Bridge between Oregon and Idaho to help a fellow motorist who’d been in a crash. Moments later, he was in the frigid Snake River, 50 feet below, swimming for his life.
The worst of his injuries? Amazingly, a broken left leg.
According to Oregon State Police, Arrasmith had stopped his 2016 Jeep behind a 2008 Chevrolet Colorado that had hit black ice and crashed on the bridge.
Arrasmith, a corrections officer who is certified in first aid, wanted to check in on the occupants of the Chevrolet to see whether they needed help, he said. He was standing in front of his Jeep when Jim Hundall, 68, of Walla Walla, Wash., driving a 2008 Hyundai, also hit black ice, striking the Jeep. The Jeep lurched into Arrasmith, throwing him over the bridge’s railing.
He said he clung to the bridge for a few moments, maybe 10 seconds, before losing his grip and falling into the river, his femur broken.
Arrasmith said the thing that kept him focused was the thought of his son.
“I thought about my 7-month-old son, how I have to be there for him,” he said. “That was my drive and desire. ... ‘OK, I’ve got to get to shore.’ ”
Arrasmith is a lucky and determined man, said Oregon State Police Capt. Bill Fugate, a public information officer.
“He’s very fortunate,” Fugate said. “In any of those events, he could have lost his life.”
Once in the water, Arrasmith shed heavier clothing and swam to an island. When a police officer arrived, he waded through the river to bring Arrasmith a wool blanket. Emergency crews then arrived to take Arrasmith to the hospital.
“I am familiar with the Snake River, and I know in that section it has a northwest flow,” Arrasmith said. “I was lucky enough to fall feet first, so I was able to orient myself really quickly. There’s Oregon. Just continue west. My main concern was, get out of the water and the wet clothes, because the outside temperature was 36 degrees.”
Arrasmith, who was going into surgery Monday, urged drivers to be careful.
“Everybody needs to realize it’s winter. Slow down. Don’t use cruise control,” he said. “Speed kills.”
The driver of the pickup truck was unhurt, and the driver of the third car received minor injuries, state police said.