Fisherman, Firefighter Reunited After Rescue

Chuck Wahtola fell into the icy waters of Diversey Harbor Wednesday

By Stefan Holt
|  Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012  |  Updated 11:08 AM CDT
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Chuck Wahtola fell into the icy waters of Diversey Harbor Wednesday after his chair fell out from under him. Billy Miller, an off-duty fireman, rescued him.

Chuck Wahtola fell into the icy waters of Diversey Harbor Wednesday after his chair fell out from under him. Billy Miller, an off-duty fireman, rescued him.

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Fisherman Pulled from Diversey Harbor

It was supposed to be a relaxing day fishing. Instead, Chuck Wahtola wound up in a hospital bed after being pulled from the icy waters of Diversey Harbor on Wednesday evening.
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A local fisherman and the Chicago firefighter who rescued him last week have reunited.

Chuck Wahtola fell into the icy waters of Diversey Harbor last Wednesday after his chair fell out from under him. Thankfully, he and Billy Miller, an off-duty fireman, had traded fishing stories on nearby piers moments earlier.

"My thought going in the water was, I know Billy's close by, all I have to do is yell for help from Billy," said Wahtola, who has two artificial shoulders and two artificial knees.

"I asked, please pull me out gently, but whatever you do, get me out," said Wahtola, chuckling, "and they did."

Miller said the first thing that went through his mind was to get the man out of the 32-degree water as quickly as possible.

"I knew his age, and he was a real big guy," Miller said. "Chuck was the best catch we've ever made in Diversey Harbor. Without a doubt"

The two met at Chicago Fire Engine 42 on Tuesday so Wahtola could meet the rest of the fire team that saved his life. "It makes me feel great," Miller said, "It makes me feel proud to be a Chicago firefighter, is what it does."

And it made him a permanent fishing buddy of Wahtola's.

"We're going to go fishing together," Wahtola said, "and so I think I found a new life-long friend."

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