Man comes to the rescue for person stuck in Tempe Town Lake

Posted at 10:35 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-14 09:00:23-04

A Tempe man became a hero Monday after spotting someone in the middle of Tempe Town Lake, struggling to keep his head above water.

But don't tell 58-year-old Michael Haney you think he's a hero. He's far too modest to accept such a title.

The former pilot typically takes a walk around Tempe Town Lake, but there was nothing typical about what happened to him on this occasion. 

"All of a sudden...I heard some loud screaming, which stood out because I had my earbuds on and I was listening to music," he explains. 
In the middle of the peaceful lake, hundreds of feet away, Haney spotted a young man, splashing around the water, hands in the air, screaming for help.  
"The first few moments were horrifying because it was a sincere call for help."
Haney acted fast, sprinting closer to the shore, deciding not to jump in at first, but instead, guiding the man with his encouraging words. 
"I started yelling at him. 'Help is on the way. I'm here.' And he seemed to stop struggling at that moment."
And the less he struggled, the closer the man made his way to the shoreline. Haney then hoisted him out of the water -- and accidentally fell in himself. His wet clothes are proof, but he says it was a small sacrifice to help his fellow man.  
"This was a very clear indication in the moment that he was deeply troubled."
His only hope? That more people would have done what he did.
"We can't pick and choose when we take action sometimes. I think action commands, and with that situation this morning, no one seemed compelled." 
When Haney fell into the water, he lost his iPhone and also a pair of aviator sunglasses he's owned for decades. They were a proud memento from his pilot days. Haney explains he'd make the same decision if it meant helping to save that man. 
Tempe Police have not released the man's name. We're told he was taken in for a mental health evaluation. Investigators are still trying to figure out why he went into the water.