DETROIT LAKE, Ore. – He saved a life; now he could end up in jail. It's a strange twist of fate for the 33-year-old Portland man who helped rescue a teenager who nearly drowned at Detroit Lake.
Deputies never would have known about the warrant out for this hero's arrest if it weren't for his grandmother, who accidentally blew his cover trying to get her grandson the recognition he deserved.
Two Saturdays ago a 15-year-old boy slipped under the water while trying to swim across Detroit Lake. Erik Hemenway jumped in the water and found the teen about six feet below the surface. He was able to pull the unconscious boy out, getting him to shore where rescue crews then stabilized him.
However, when his 81-year-old grandma in California read about the rescue in the paper she saw it cited "Craig Hemengway" for the heroism. So she fired off an e-mail to the newspaper saying the hero was her grandson – demanding a correction because they had the name wrong. The newspaper then forwarded the e-mail to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
It turns out that they had the spelling wrong because that's how Erik Hemenway, without the "g," gave it to deputies. That's because he didn't want them to know who he really was.
Who is Erik Hemenway?
When Don Thomson with the Marion County Sheriff's Office did some checking he discovered Erik had a warrant out for his arrest. His legal troubles stem from drunk driving in 2005, where he left the scene. The warrant was issued after he paid only about half of his court fines.
So Thomson called Erik, and asked him to do the right thing and turn himself in.
"And I pointed out to him he left the scene at the hit and run, but he didn't leave the scene at the drowning," Thomson said. "And I pointed out, 'Don't leave the scene of this warrant; go take care of this.'"
Thomson says Hemenway told him he is scared to come forward right now because he is expecting a child in two weeks, and he doesn't want to miss it. So Thomson says he is working with Hemenway's probation officer to sort this out.
"Perhaps in a way this is a good thing," the deputy said, "and maybe be catalyst that brings Erik around to taking responsibility for things in the past."
Meanwhile, Thomson is hopeful Hemenway will use saving a life as a way to transform his own. And, despite his looming arrest, Erik Hemenway still will be given a lifesaver award from the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
"Whatever his status is at the probation department doesn't change his status up at the lake," Thompson said. "He was a hero, and we hope he'll use this going forward as sort of a spring board."
Editor's note: We will be following this story here on KATU.com.