PLYMOUTH – Jake Manna said his heart dropped when he saw a diaper and T-shirt floating in the water while he was looking for a 5-year-old autistic girl who had gone missing on Wednesday, July 13.
The sight made him think the worst, Manna said, and he sprang into action.
The 20-year-old Hanover resident trekked across a river and saw the girl walking in past her waist in muddy water. After calling out for her to stop, Manna shed his shoes and socks to wade into the mud to carry the young girl out of the water.
“It was like quicksand pretty much,” Manna said of the muddy water.
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Manna recounted that he had been on the job in Plymouth near Buttermilk Bay, working for a solar panel installation company, when a woman drove by and frantically spread the news that a young girl was missing. Manna heard her and decided to help search for the girl along with two other men in the area.
Manna said that about 15 minutes passed between when he started looking for the girl and when he found her.
Manna, who graduated from Hanover High School in 2020, is a certified lifeguard and said he has worked with children with special needs in the past.
After he handed the young girl off to someone else and climbed out of the water, he saw the girl’s mother run and drop to her knees to hug her daughter.
“It was very heartwarming. It was a relief for me and everyone in the neighborhood,” Manna said.
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The Plymouth Police Department welcomed Mann on Thursday and recognized his heroism with a certificate and command coin from Chief Dana Flynn and Capt. LeBretton.
Officer Vinnie Roth responded to the call about the missing girl and said that Manna saved her life.
“That girl had a guardian angel yesterday … And his name was Jake,” the police department said in a Facebook post.
But Manna said the community came together to find the young girl.
“Honestly, I’m not a hero,” Manna said. “Anyone would do it if they were in my shoes.”
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