As a Washington Post sports columnist, Mike Wise has covered everything from the Olympics to basketball star Gilbert Arenas. He ghost wrote Shaquille O’Neal’s autobiography and spends time all over the country chronicling Washington sports figures.
But if not for GW law student Jason Coates, Wise thinks he could have been dead.
Last week, the jovial sports writer was jogging along his normal route on the C&O Canal in Georgetown with his dog Looly. Near the four-mile mark, the pair took a break. While Wise had his back turned, Looly – who was unleashed – fell through the ice covering the canal. Wise carefully tried to lower himself into the water when the ice supporting him broke and he fell in. He managed to push the dog out of the water but could not pull himself out. He was stuck in the middle of the canal.
“I’d probably been in the water for about three minutes and I knew from somewhere that between four and seven minutes you start to suffer from hypothermia,” Wise said. “I figured I had a minute left and thought, ‘I’m just going to start yelling’.”
Luckily, Coates, a first-year law student from Chicago who had also been jogging along the canal, heard Wise’s distress calls and ran to rescue him. The two only suffered minor scrapes and bruises from the incident.
“I’ll let Jason represent me when he becomes a lawyer,” Wise joked. “I figure if he saved my butt once, then he can save me in court.”
Wise and Coates reunited for the first time since the accident in front of the GW Law School yesterday to film a segment for a Thursday broadcast of Fox 5 News.
“It’s a more proper introduction than ‘Help, I’m dying!” Wise said.
The two did not have a chance to speak after Coates pulled Wise from the water, but Coates had told him his name and that he was a student at GW Law School. Wise followed up by calling the Law School and got an e-mail address for Coates. The two later spoke and planned the Wednesday afternoon meeting so the two could meet and Wise could thank him in person.
At the meeting, Wise, who previously worked at The New York Times, credited Coates with saving his life, but Coates modestly rejected the notion of being a “hero.”
Coates said, “Maybe I did (save his life) but it’s something anyone in the same circumstance would have done.”