Federal Way man rescues fellow fisherman at Steel Lake

Federal Way residents Jeffrey Ballard, left, and Norman Kachman. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
Federal Way residents Jeffrey Ballard, left, and Norman Kachman.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

When it comes to water rescues, Jeffrey Ballard always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

About 1:30 p.m. June 19, the Federal Way resident was fishing on Steel Lake when he spotted a fellow fisherman, Norman Kachman, across the water. He watched as Kachman, 78, leaned over more and more until eventually falling out of a 7-foot Livingston skiff boat.

"When he fell out, I knew there was something wrong," said Ballard, who was testing his daughter's kayak at the time.

Apparently, Kachman put too much weight on the front of his unsinkable boat, which quickly filled with water.

It took a minute or two for Ballard to reach Kachman, who was clinging to his boat, debating whether to stay with the vessel or swim to safety. Ballard got Kachman to move around to the back of the boat, then towed the man to shore.

Ballard thought that was the end of the ordeal. When he told his wife, she suggested calling 911 to make sure Kachman was OK.

As it turned out, Kachman was in a bit of daze upon reaching the lake's shore. Doctors checked him out and released him in good condition.

For unknown reasons, Kachman's memory of the rescue is still hazy. Kachman, an experienced boater, recommends that people take their safety seriously when going out on the water.

"No matter how long you do this, you can still make a mistake," he said, noting that he was not wearing a personal flotation device. "I advise anyone to wear a life preserver."

Ballard remained humble as South King Fire and Rescue honored his courage at the June 26 board of commissioners meeting. He was presented with a plaque and a Ladder 64 station coin.

Ballard revealed that about two years ago, he rescued an 8-year-old boy from Lake Killarney in Federal Way. The boy's canoe had tipped over. Ballard grabbed him by the fingertips in the nick of time, he said.

Ballard, a tow truck driver, spends a lot of recreational time on Federal Way's lakes. He was glad to help Kachman to safety.

"I fish Steel Lake a bit," he said, "so maybe I'll see him again."

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