Hero is honored for rescue of man and dog in Hopewell Township

Kevin Phillips helps pull Eric Green and Copper from icy canal waters on Dec. 15

By John Tredrea
   Kevin Phillips, the hero who rescued a man and his dog from an icy canal in Hopewell Township Dec. 15, was honored and given heartfelt thanks during Monday night’s Hopewell Township Committee meeting.
   Mr. Phillips, 36, of Albrightsville, Pa., helped save the lives of Eric Green and his 105-pound Bernese mountain dog, Copper, by playing a major role in their rescue from the waters of the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
   Mr. Green, a 27-year-old resident of Washington Crossing, Pa., who brought his 10-month-old dog to Monday’s ceremony, thanked his rescuer for his bravery.
   Of course, Copper, a beautiful animal, didn’t have anything to say, but was well-behaved and friendly and charmed the crowd at Monday’s ceremony.
   "He’s a true hero," Mr. Green said of Mr. Phillips.
   Mr. Phillips minimized his role, saying he didn’t think it was that big a deal. "I would want someone to do it for me," Mr. Philips said.
   Township police Chief Michael Chipowksy gave Mr. Phillips a framed copy of the resolution that was adopted by township officials Monday.
   The resolution, which states that Mr. Phillips "placed his own life in jeopardy to rescue a complete stranger and his dog," tells the story of the dramatic rescue.
   At about 2 p.m. on Dec. 15, Mr. Green was walking Copper along the canal in the Titusville section of Hopewell Township when Copper ran onto thin ice to chase some ducks and fell through. Mr. Green tried to pull Copper out of the 20-degree water. Instead, he fell in himself.
   At the time, the air temperature was 15 degrees and the temperature of the water about 20 degrees, Chief Chipowsky said.
   Driving by on Route 29, Mr. Phillips saw a man and dog in the water and pulled over. As the resolution says, he entered the icy waters without hesitation in his effort to help Mr. Green. Thinking again, he exited the water and tied a strap between himself and his vehicle and entered the water a second time. He was able to pull Mr. Green to temporary safety at the edge of the canal, and then pulled the dog from the water. Unable to pull Mr. Green fully from the water, Mr. Phillips remained at his side, partially in the canal, and held onto him until more help arrived.
   That help came from Dennis Stites, a member of the Lambertville Rescue Squad, and Hopewell Township police Officers Jim Turner and Michael Sherman. Mr. Stites just happened to be driving by in his own vehicle and saw the commotion. He stopped to assist. The three men also were honored during Monday night’s meeting.
   Mr. Stites helped the patrolmen remove Mr. Green and Mr. Phillips from the canal. In a letter to Mr. Stites, township Mayor Vanessa Sandom noted that he also "helped carry Mr. Green to a police car where he was placed prior to the arrival of emergency medical personnel. Utilizing the emergency training that you possess as a member of the Lambertville Rescue Squad, you administered oxygen (which is carried in police vehicles) and began further treatment of Eric Green, staying with him until the arrival of the Hopewell Valley Emergency Medical Unit."
   In letters of commendation to Officers Turner and Sherman, Chief Chipowsky said that without hesitation or regard for their own safety, they went into the canal to help. "Please accept my congratulations for a job well done," the chief said.
   Mr. Green’s family donated 12 safety lines to the township police in gratitude for his rescue.