EXCLUSIVE: Officers share testimony, bodycam footage from Chenango River rescue

This is a recurring recording of WBNG's 11pm Newscast.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 12:10 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FENTON (WBNG) -- Almost one month after emergency crews responded to reports of a car crashing into the Chenango River, Broome County Sheriff’s deputies who helped save a young man’s life are now sharing their story.

On May 5, around 11:40 a.m., Broome County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to reports of a vehicle in the Chenango River off Interstate Route 88 westbound near Exit 3.

“It was actually really convenient that many of us were nearby. Detective Barcak showed up first on the scene,” explained Broome County Deputy Mark Hamilton. “It was actually really difficult to see where the crash had occurred because of the little damage on the guardrail.”

The driver, Colby Degnan, and passenger Colleen Bobola, both 21 and from Johnson City, were able to escape the sinking vehicle and climb onto the roof. As the vehicle completely submerged, both attempted to swim to shore.

Broome County Detective Matt Barack said he was waved down by people who lived the area when he arrived at the scene.

“I found the first victim who was already bringing herself out of the water and up the bank,” said Barack. “I found out who else was in the car and then I relayed that information to the deputies who were downriver with throw bags to retrieve them.”

While Bobola was able to make it to shore, the strong currents swept Degnan further down the Chenango River. About half a mile down the river, Broome County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Hamilton spotted Degnan’s unconscious body being tossed by the currents and tied a rescue line around his waist before jumping into the river.

“I assumed he was going to float by me, so I ran to my car to grab my throw bag to hopefully use a tie-off for me, Then I noticed he went into a calm area where I could just go grab him, flipped him over, and then Detective Barcak came down to assist me with getting him out of a river and then we could start CPR.”

With word that Colby had been found, Detective Barcak raced down to help.

“I carry swift water equipment in my vehicle because I’m on our boat team so I went down to assist and when I was down there when I reached Deputy Hamilton he was already pulling Colby out of the water so I helped out with that and helped with CPR,” said Barack.

The detective mentioned that he was able to visit the victim in the hospital after the rescue mission.

“[We] were just so happy to see he’s recovering the way that he is,” shared Barack. “We have so many times when we’re rendering medical aid and doing CPR and things like that. To see that his recovery is going so well, it’s just great to see.”

Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar said he couldn’t be prouder of his men. He credited the officers’ quick thinking to their heroism that day.

“They sprung into action and they saved a life,” he said. “Frankly, that’s what we’re here for to protect the very people who live in this community that we’re sworn to protect and they did that. Not thinking about the dangers and the fear that may be associated with their actions. If they thought about it, it was for a very brief second, but they sprung into action and they saved this young man’s life.”