Fast action saves man from drowning at WellSprings

Katja Machcinski was enjoying her daydream about Olympic swimmers during a few of her own laps Saturday at Jackson WellSprings when her foot kicked someone during midstroke.

"I stopped. I was going to apologize," Machcinski said. "I observed a man curled up in the fetal position at the bottom of the pool face down."

Machcinski didn't know he was unconscious. Maybe he was enjoying himself, she thought, having seen people do similar things.

There were about a half dozen people in the pool, and nobody saw the man jump in, she said.

"That was the trigger," Machcinski said.

Machcinski dove for the drowning man, whom she identified as Walter, and had him pulled to the edge of the pool deck less than 30 seconds after she first nudged him, she said.

"I brought him to the side of the pool and screamed bloody murder," she said. "It was very easy to rescue him, there was nothing there, there was no struggle, there was no life."

Machcinski, 57, of Ashland is strong and muscular, an alternative medicine practitioner and retired sports massage therapist who swam competitively as a youth, she said. She has frequented the WellSprings for more than 20 years.

Bystander Harold Hoffman and others rushed to help pull the man onto the pool deck, Machcinski said.

Hoffman started CPR on the victim and one woman jumped out of the pool and began chest compressions until a Jackson WellSprings employee rushed over and took her place, Machcinski said.

Certified to administer CPR, Machcinski stood by and monitored the situation.

"He was purple, had dilated pupils, lifeless, but, bit by bit, he started to come back, and he started to make sounds, terrible moaning sounds," she said. "We rolled him on his side when he started coughing, and he expelled water."

Ashland Fire & Rescue responded to the WellSprings at 6:46 p.m., Division Chief Greg Case said.

The man was conscious when paramedics arrived, Case said, and he was transported to Ashland Community Hospital.

Initially, the man was listed in stable condition, and was checked out of the hospital by Sunday evening, said Machcinski, who called to check up on him.

"I really want to meet him," she said. "I want to look into his live eyes."

The water was murky and the man couldn't be seen lying at the bottom of the pool at dusk that day, she said.

"I swam past him several times. Nobody could see him. I was two feet from him and I could barely see him," she said.

Machcinski estimates the man was under water for more than five minutes. "I don't know why in the world he went under," she said. "I do not know.

"If I had not brushed him with my foot and not seen him, he would have perished," she said. "He was dead when I was pulling him up."

Jackson WellSprings employees did not return phone messages left at its office Monday.

"There was no fear," Machcinski said, about her thoughts between realizing the situation and taking a big breath to dive for the man she and others saved. "There was just a lot of traumatic stress after the situation, realizing that a man's life was in my hands."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email

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