What do you do after jumping in water to save man? Change clothes, go back to work.

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023

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In the pre-dawn hours of March 25, Port Arthur Police Officer Matthew Munselle leapt into action and saved a man who was on the roof of a vehicle as it was sinking in a canal.

And after everyone was safe and checked by EMS, he changed clothes and went back to work.

Munselle, who joined the department in October and has been in training since January, sounded modest as he recalled his actions while sharing the story Wednesday morning. He described how he took off his boots, vest and gun belt and swam to the man.

Port Arthur Police Officer Matthew Munselle was recently recognized for jumping into a canal and saving a man’s life. (Mary Meaux/The News)

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He spoke of how he calmed the man down, telling him he would not let him drown, and followed up on those words by getting the man to safety.

The man was trying to save his girlfriend who had driven into a body of water on Memorial Boulevard near Texas 73. However, he was unable to swim.

The woman reportedly called police from inside the vehicle at 4:24 a.m. The woman also called her boyfriend, who arrived at the scene and jumped in to save her. But by then, she had been able to float to the bank. The boyfriend got to the roof of the vehicle as it sank.

“Officer Munselle is a recent addition to our department, and without hesitation jumped into the water in order to help the young man to get out,” Deputy Chief Michael Fratus said.

“There are several words that are used to describe police officers that we try to live up to. Those words come to mind this morning, and that’s duty and courage. Those are the characteristics that Officer Munselle showed us that he definitely has and showed us by putting them in order by selflessly going into the water to save a life.”

Munselle said when arriving at the scene, he had to make a quick assessment. Was there anyone else in the vehicle? Fortunately, there was not.

When first responders arrived, the car had made it to the middle of the canal. The officer went to the other bank, as it was closer to where the man was stranded.

Field Training Officer Lt. Ryan Byers showed an aerial view of the cloverleaf area where a car plunged into the canal last month. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“I managed to grab hold of him, talk to him, kind of got him to help me save him. So I had him kick his legs wide while I swam and pulled him with one arm,” Munselle said.

He said police don’t often get thanked, but the man gave him a big hug.

“He said he really appreciated me saving him and that he didn’t know what he would do without me. This is not something we get in law enforcement, so it felt really good,” Munselle said.

Field Training Officer Lt. Ryan Byers said when he arrived he asked one of the officers where the vehicle was and the officer pointed to the water. It was completely submerged by then.

When police respond to a call they often do not know the full extent of what’s going on. They only have the information that was given by a caller to a dispatcher who then relays the info to the officer. Byers said sometimes the information is not accurate, so when they arrive they are going off what they were told and must immediately access the situation.

“When he got there, he went to find out if the female was out and then they had to find out if anybody was still trapped in the car because the car is underwater. This is going to be the next part of where you’re limited on oxygen to get on top of cars,” Byers said.