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Boston Weather: 50.0°F | A Few Clouds

Woman rescued from river

By Andrea Lamberti

William J. Moliski '91 jumped into the icy Charles River last Thursday morning to rescue a woman who had fallen into the river from the Harvard Bridge.

The woman, Ellen Ellis, who has no MIT affiliation, told police afterwards that she had dropped her pocketbook while on the bridge. "She was leaning over the railing and she fell in," Metropolitan District Commission Police Officer Donald R. Shone said.

"But that's highly improbable," Shone continued. "The pocketbook was on the street side of the railing. . . . It wasn't in the water. . . . It was on the bridge."

But a different MDC officer said Ellis' purse landed on the river side of the railing.

Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin said that after learning the woman's history, the Campus Police believed that "the individual was depressed."

Moliski was hospitalized and treated for hypothermia at the MIT Medical Center Thursday morning, after Ellis was safely out of the water.

Mount Auburn Hospital spokesperson Linda Furnari said Ellis was "in satisfactory condition." Ellis had been admitted to the hospital and was discharged over the weekend, Furnari said.

Shone said the river water temperature was about 50@# F.

Moliski's brother, Lt. Robert M. Moliski, a technical instructor in naval science at MIT, said, "Navy water survival tables indicate a death time of less than 12 minutes for the probable water temperature of the Charles that morning."

The Campus Police have recognized Moliski, Jeffrey M. D'Urso '94 and Michael J. Welch, coach of the freshmen lightweight crew team, who all assisted in the rescue effort. Glavin presented each with a Citizen Recognition Award yesterday afternoon.

"Not only the Campus Police Department, but the entire MIT community appreciate and thank you for your efforts" on Thursday, Glavin told the three men in a letter.

A "quiet" cry for help

Moliski was walking toward MIT on the Harvard Bridge Thursday morning when he noticed Ellis in the water about

20-30 yards from the MIT side of the river.

Moliski was at about the "360-Smoot" mark on the bridge when he saw someone looking down at her. Ellis didn't really call for help, but when he looked down she said, " `Help me, help me,' " Moliski said. "It was kind of quiet; it wasn't really a scream or anything."

Moliski told the onlooker to call for help and went to a ladder on the river wall. He then removed his jacket and shoes, climbed down the ladder and jumped into the water. Glavin said the Campus Police received a call for assistance at 9:55 am.

Moliski said he then swam out to the woman, who was "right next to the bridge itself." Moliski grabbed her coat and "brought her back to the ladder," he said. He was in the water for a little over five minutes, he said.

By the time they reached the side of the river, Moliski had lost feeling in his fingers due to the cold water. He "climbed up [to the] bottom rungs. I had no feeling in my arms," he said. Moliski and D'Urso, who was on the ladder, "tried to pull her out. We yelled for someone to get [a] launch," Moliski said.

Moliski's brother said, "The rescue was complicated by the position of the ladder, which did not extend to the water line."

Campus Police arrived then and instructed Moliski and D'Urso to climb up the ladder so they could remove Ellis from the water. Lt. Moliski said his brother "collapsed shortly thereafter."

Moliski said the Campus Police could not pull Ellis out because she was wearing a down coat, which had become heavily soaked with water.

Glavin said Welch took Ellis by boat to the Harold W. Pierce '26 Boathouse, where an ambulance was waiting.

According to the MDC, Ellis was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Moliski said, "She was a little incoherent, but I attribute that to her being cold. . . . She did smell heavily of . . . cigarette smoke."

An MDC officer said, "This person has done it before. She's not too tightly wrapped. This person is mentally disturbed. She's from an institution."