Francis Rush is a Gunnery Sgt. in the Marine Corps Forces Reserve and is a full-time Trooper with the New York State Police. Photos courtesy of Francis Rush. Composite image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.
The New York State Police know him as Trooper Francis "Frank" Rush, but the troops in "Wild Goose" — Marine Corps Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 774 — call him gunnery sergeant.
Now both can tag him as a hero, too. Officials credit Rush with yanking an unconscious driver out of a Fishkill pond on Aug. 17.
Rush told Coffee or Die Magazine in the moment he “just reverted back to my Marine Corps training” as a V-22 Osprey aircrew member at his North Carolina-based squadron.
He downplayed the rescue as “just second nature to me to go ahead and do what I needed to do in order to get out there and try to get this guy out of the vehicle.”
On Aug. 17, 2022, New York State Police Trooper Frank Rush, from Troop K, arrived at a pond along Westgate Drive in the town of Fishkill, where a driver had been reported trapped in a submerged car. Still from a New York State Police bodycam.
When Rush arrived at the accident, bystanders were shouting for the trooper to save the driver.
He recalled securing his pistol belt in the police cruiser and grabbing a rope and a window punch before rushing toward the water, remembering to flip on his body-worn camera during his sprint.
The trooper told Coffee or Die he saw a citizen treading water near the submerged car, a man he later found out was Anthony Rendell. Rush handed the rope to a bystander on shore and splashed into the pond.
The camera captures the murky green water, his body churning through algae, pondweeds, and milfoil, and then his grip on the lid of the black sedan’s trunk just as it dips below the surface.
From left, Gunnery Sgt. Francis Rush, Sgt. Brandon Case, and Sgt. Maj. Zachary Richardson pose before a crew briefing while supporting Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response Africa in June 2020. Photo courtesy of Francis Rush.
The footage reveals Rush thrashing in the water, the pond plants swirling around him. He remembers trying to spear his punch through the car’s rear window, but he didn’t think he had enough force on it to pierce the glass.
The car continued to sink to the bottom, probably about 15 feet down, and then a large bubble of air blossomed along the pond’s surface.
Rush recalled that he and Rendell looked at each other, bewildered. And then the driver came bobbing up.
On Aug. 17, 2022, New York State Police Trooper Frank Rush, from Troop K, dove into a pond along Westgate Drive in the town of Fishkill, where a driver had been reported trapped in a submerged car. Still from a New York State Police bodycam.
“We were like, 'Oh!' as the body was coming to the top there,” Rush said. “It was definitely a relief, to say the least, because Plan B and Plan C was still being formulated in my mind. Whether it be a rock from the shoreline to dive down and break a window, or something else.”
Rush gripped the man and began swimming with him in tow to shore. About 15 feet from the edge of the pond, the trooper called for the rope from the bystander. Then the trooper, the bystander, and Rendell tugged him to land.
In the muck, the driver sprawled on his back and then spumed water from his airway before beginning to breathe on his own.
“A sigh of relief and just, like, ‘Wow! What just happened?’” Rush said. “You know, it's a first experience for me for sure.”
Marines undergo water survival training at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, July 28, 2015. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Neysa Huertas Quinones.
Arriving paramedics rushed the driver to a nearby hospital.
But it wasn’t the first time in his life that Rush had been thrown into underwater chaos.
He spent eight years on active duty in the US Marine Corps before he became a reservist, so his interview with Coffee or Die was peppered with talk about the “dunk tank” and “SWET chair,” the kind of training Marines and sailors routinely undergo so that they don’t die at sea.
“As they say, ‘The water is the greatest equalizer. You have to remain calm and cool in the water,” Rush said.
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Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. He went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.
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