Miracle at the Ambassador Bridge

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023

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Sometimes you run across a story that’s just begging to be shared. For a couple of reasons. 

First, there’s the staggering miracle that occurred and secondly, it all relied upon the perfect precision of bringing together a gaggle of folks who all happened to be at the right place at the right time.

The Ambassador Bridge links Detroit to Windsor, Canada, and is the busiest bridge in North America. I’ve certainly crossed it a few times during my touring days as a stand-up comic and it’s indeed an impressive thing to behold. Nearly as impressive as the view of Detroit’s skyline from across the water which suddenly looks rather beautiful. Amazing what a little distance can do when it comes to aesthetics, but I digress…

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Ironworker Spencer Baker, 27 and father to an infant daughter, was working to repair the suspension cables that hold up the bridge when he somehow lost his balance on the scaffolding (the accident is under investigation and he cannot comment further) and fell a whopping 150 feet into the river. Local authorities say they’ve never heard of anyone falling from that distance and surviving but Spencer did, breaking several bones and, as he reported, seeing his entire life flash before him as he tumbled downwards.  

“I thought this is it, my life’s over. I’ll never see my daughter again,” he said, his voice breaking.

What Spencer didn’t know as he bobbed in the water, determined to keep his head up, was that his fall just happened to be seen by a family who had been fishing along the riverfront. Desperate, one young girl with an older, female relative were picked up by a door camera as they ran to JW Wescott Company, a business that delivers mail to ships and carriers on the river, banging on the building’s side door and calling for help. 

As soon as Captain Sam Buchanan could make out that someone had fallen into the water, he and two crew members leaped into action, launching their boat, the JW Wescott, and followed the pointing and yelling from the witnesses on shore.

The little blue mail boat reached Baker well before the Coast Guard arrived in a grand total of three minutes.

Captain Buchanan was able to hoist Baker onto the Wescott, covering him with a blanket as Baker kept repeating, “What happened and why am I wet?”  (Which, really, many of us have been known to ask after a 6-pack.)

Baker is recuperating at home with his fiancé and daughter. As he was treated in an American hospital instead of a Canadian one, he is suffering from anxiety about the massive medical bills he will be facing from his ’splintered’ left ribcage and a lacerated spleen–particularly as he has no idea when he will be recovered enough to return to work. 

He remains deeply grateful to everyone who rushed to his aid on an otherwise completely uneventful day. 

And the rest of us remain astonished at the choreography that played out, perhaps by Providence, of placing every person involved—and all of them strangers– in a position to save a fellow human being. All it would have taken was an eye blink to have missed Spencer’s fate.

Friends have set up a crowdfunding page to help Spencer and his young family, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/road-to-recovery-spencer-family.