Patrick Patterson, 32, of Fayetteville had been enjoying the river on his homemade raft. His journey took a bad turn when his foot got caught under some reinforcing bar below the Highway 217 bridge near Erwin.
"And then somebody grabbed me from behind," Patterson said. "I didn't know who it was, or where they had come from."
The re-bar was about two feet under water. Due to the recent lack of rain, the water level had dropped somewhat, creating rapids in that portion of the river. The rapids held Patterson's head under water.
Meanwhile, Wormald, 37, leader of Cary's Explorer Troop 208 was giving a kayaking lesson. Someone told Wormald that a man was drowning at the bridge.
"I kind of walked out hold a rope so I wouldn't get stuck the same way," Wormald said. "Then I tied it around him, and from then on we just held his head up until the rescuers arrived."
Wormald jumped into the river and held Patterson's head above water for an hour until more rescuers arrived and divers were able to free Patterson's foot.
"He was a hero," Patterson said. "If he hadn't come along, I would have drown. I would have drown before any rescue people would have gotten there."
A total of 63 rescue crew members eventually assembled at the river from various Harnett County fire departments.
Patterson was taken to Good Hope Hospital in Erwin, where he was treated for a puncture wound to the leg, rope burns on his arms and hypothermia. He has since been discharged. Photographer:Lori Pickle