Adrenaline kept Ryan Vena dragging the drowning man closer to shore Wednesday evening, even as rocks in the shallow water cut at his legs.
It was only 10 or 15 feet to where the tides had revealed a muddy flat, but the man was unconscious, weighed about 250 pounds and had floated nearly 150 yards down a swiftly flowing channel near the power plant at Anclote Park.
As he neared the pier, Tim Rutledge ran up.
"Is he breathing?" he asked Vena.
"No. He's got a pulse."
With bystanders watching 12 feet above on the pier, Rutledge gave the man mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while Vena pumped on his chest.
After what witnesses said had to be 10 minutes, the man started breathing on his own.
When they were relieved by paramedics around 6:30 p.m., the man was awake, although dazed enough that he couldn't tell deputies who he was.
Witnesses and Pasco County sheriff's deputies all said Vena, 19, and Rutledge, 22, saved the man's life.
"To tell you the truth, I thought he was gone," said William Hazeton, 80, of Holiday, who was fishing with his grandson, Jacob Warnicke. Pasco County sheriff's deputies believe the man was homeless. Near where he was fishing _ where witnesses believed he slipped, hit his head and fell into the channel near the Florida Power plant _ they found a large green bag.
In the bag were cigarettes, eyeglasses, a sweater and a Veterans Administration medical benefits card, made out to James J. Martin, 54. Deputies were trying to find any of Martin's family members Wednesday night.
Vena and Rutledge were there fishing and said they became involved only after they heard a commotion coming from the waterfront.
The two men, who didn't know each other, both had seen the man fishing in the channel earlier in the day. Vena said he heard someone yell for help behind him and he ran over to the channel to see the man floating away.
Vena said he heard people say the man was probably dead but that didn't stop him. Vena jumped over the side of the pier, fell 12 feet to the shallow water below and half-swam, half-walked with the current carrying them both into the gulf.
"I thought if it's a dead corpse, so what if I pull him ashore," said Vena, who is from Palm Harbor. "If it isn't, then I saved someone's life.
"It's just something I'd want someone to do for me."
Vena learned CPR in a class in high school; Rutledge, who lives in New Port Richey, learned it as a program coordinator for a YMCA in Kentucky. Both said they didn't think twice about helping someone in trouble.
"That's somebody's son. That's somebody's father," Rutledge said. "You can't let something like that go by."