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Jul. 16—CLAYTON — Gerald Swindle, a two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year, had just left weigh-in after day one of the Bassmasters tournament on Thursday when a motorcycle began rolling in front of his truck just outside the village.
Mr. Swindle got out of his truck and ran to the man lying in the middle of State Street in Clayton, and much of the incident was caught on his livestream camera on his boat that was in tow.
Shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday, a group of motorcycles was traveling out of Clayton on State Street when one of the last bikes in the pack lost control and crashed just outside of the Clipper Inn restaurant. The motorcyclist would eventually be airlifted to Upstate Medical University in Syracuse with what appeared to be a broken leg. But that was not before Mr. Swindle, his wife and other Good Samaritans stayed with the man until first responders arrived.
"You can think you're a bass pro and you have the greatest job in the world," Mr. Swindle said. "And 'Oh I just caught a big bag and I'm doing great in this tournament,' but in a split second I realized that's really irrelevant."
On Saturday, Mr. Swindle was in 30th place in the tournament along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, a bucket list area to fish given the clear waters, big bass and country living like back home in Alabama, he said. He only had a few pounds to make up to crack back into the top 10, where he has finished 56 times in past tournaments.
On Thursday moments before the crash, his wife was checking the standings in the front seat when the group of bikes was passing their truck on the right. They aren't sure exactly what happened — police on the scene suspected it was a mechanical failure to the motorcycle — but when it started rolling, the driver got caught underneath. Mr. Swindle said he immediately told his wife to call 911 as he pulled over and ran to the man in the road, which was caught on his boat's camera. His first concern was oncoming cars hitting him, so he had to take a chance on his six-foot, four-inch frame being big enough to alert traffic. He said some other witnesses came over and blocked one side of the road as he told him to stay still and that help was on its way.
"It's the thing about the group that I run with," he said of the competitors. "They would all do the same. I think there's something in that mentality of a fisherman in that you're supposed to help other people."
In his line of work and the amount of traveling he does around the country and world, Mr. Swindle has seen his fair share of crashes. He said it's become second nature to stop and help. He doesn't act like a medic at scenes, but he's learned to just be there for the person and try to keep them calm.
"I always go back in my life and say 'Well if that was my wife, my daughter or my grand babies, I hope someone would do that for them,'" Mr. Swindle said.
The injuries to the motorcyclist appeared to be non-life threatening, and Mr. Swindle and his wife eventually continued on to their cabin in Alexandria Bay where they are staying for the weekend. He went on to continue the competition. He had caught 45 pounds of fish by Friday night, and he said the field is setting a record for the amount landed in the river and lake.
"This part of New York I think is really misunderstood," he said. "You have to picture a bunch of country people from way down south. We're going to Upstate New York to fish? They have no idea this is the most beautiful country in the world. It's a special place, and the community is always good. The locals are always nice."