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Local residents save man from drowning

WHITE CITY — A White City man remained in critical condition Thursday after he nearly drowned when his pickup crashed into an irrigation ditch off East Antelope Road, police said.

Were it not for the quick thinking of several passers-by who fished James Leonard Liles, 55, out of the water he probably would not have survived the crash, Jackson County sheriff's Sgt. Marty Clark said.

Shirley Blanchard, of Eagle Point, had just picked up her daughter and son-in-law from the Medford airport and the trio were heading home on East Antelope Road when they saw Liles' truck upside down in a ditch shortly after noon.

"The wheels were facing up and the cab was fully submerged in about three feet of water," Blanchard said. "I was immediately worried that someone was still in the truck."

Blanchard worked with passers-by John Murphy, Byron Lingren and Andrew Hutton on a rescue plan. Murphy provided a tow chain, which Lingren and Hutton hooked onto the axles of Liles' truck.

Murphy used his truck to pull the submerged vehicle onto its wheels. Lingren and Hutton pulled Liles out of the cab and onto the road along the ditch, Clark said.

"We could tell right away that he was breathing because there were bubbles coming out of his nose," Blanchard said.

"But his pulse just kind of fluttered."

Blanchard, who teaches first grade at Little Butte School in Eagle Point, preformed chest compressions on Liles to remove the water from his lungs.

"I don't know how he ended up in the ditch, but he was willing to fight to stay alive," Blanchard said.

Witnesses estimated Liles was under water between three and four minutes.

Liles' breathing improved just as emergency medical crews arrived.

Liles was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford where he was listed in critical condition late Thursday.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the county's interagency crash reconstruction team.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.