by Dick Mauer
Back in the early 90s I was the PAIC in Buffalo and submitted an account of a daring, heroic, act by an Agent that led to him receiving the Newton-Azrak Award. Bill Spencer was working day shift in summer uniform with Agent Greg Barbagallo that day and they were responding to a bridge alert on Squaw Island. They observed a commotion of yelling and pointing by shore fishermen on the island. The fishermen were reacting to a woman floating swiftly in the Niagara River.
Some background here: The Niagara River at this point is about 1 mile from its origin in Lake Erie and at its narrowest point between Buffalo and Ft. Erie, Canada. Consequently, the river is at its swiftest point and is moving about 12 to 14 miles per hour, very fast, with swirling currents.
Bill had gone to the railing on the wall atop the river and observed a woman face down in the water about 30 feet out from the wall. He got back in the vehicle and raced down river to get ahead of her, shed his boots, and gun belt and went over the railing diving about 15 foot down to the water. Bill swam out, timed it right, and reached her, got her head up and headed back to the walled shore. There was no way to get up that wall here and he found a hand hold and kept himself and the woman afloat. His partner had radioed for the Buffalo Fire Department and they responded and rigged a ladder to reach the water. The woman turned out to be a suicide attempt and was hospitalized. Bill, thankfully, survived intact also.
To look at that area today and realize what took place there still gives me the chills. I remember telling Bill's wife that she was lucky to get him home that night. This was a truly selfless, heroic, act.