By Mark E. Vogler
Saugus Police Officers Ryan Bancroft and Athanasios Limbanovnos are being hailed as heroes after pulling a Lynn man from the Saugus River. “If it were not for the calmness, courage and quick actions displayed by Officer Bancroft and Officer Limbanovnos, the man would have succumbed to drowning,” Saugus Police Chief Michael Ricciardelli said.
Shortly before midnight on Monday (Aug. 14), Saugus police received an emergency 911 call from a passerby reporting that a man jumped off the Fox Hill Bridge into the Saugus River. Officers Bancroft and Limbanovnos were among about two dozen Saugus and Lynn police officers and Saugus firefighters – including the Marine Unit – who responded to the call soon after and launched a search. Initially, they were unable to find the man who jumped into the water.
But Officer Bancroft spotted the man in the water near the Fox Hill Yacht Club about 20 minutes later. He appeared to be in distress, yelling for help as he struggled while sinking beneath the surface several times.
“He was in water over his head and kept going under,” Chief Ricciardelli said. “He wasn’t going to make it much longer,” the chief said.
The tide was moving in as the current pushed the man close to a stone wall near the Fox Hill Yacht Club. “He had come up against this wall, but he couldn’t get up over it. He just fell back, and he didn’t appear to be a very strong swimmer,” the chief said.
“The two officers had to slide down a steep wall and gradually go into the water to pull the man out. It was a very steep incline. The officers said he collapsed after they pulled him out of the water,” the chief said.
Chief Ricciardelli said the man appeared to be “in a mental health crisis” when he jumped off the bridge. “It was not for fun.”
“He was going through some kind of breakup and was distraught. After he was pulled out, he was transported to the hospital and we let them know that he was suicidal,” the chief said.
“I’m proud of the guys and everyone who worked on the search and rescue. I’m glad it worked out and I hope he gets the help he needs,” Chief Ricciardelli said.
Lt. Tim O’Brien, the commanding officer on duty Monday night, has recommended letters of commendation for Officers Bancroft and Limbanovnos.
“Our department is grateful for Officers Bancroft and Limbanovnos,” Chief Ricciardelli said.
“These two police officers performed their duties in an exemplary manner and with the utmost professionalism. Our department and community commend them for a job well done,” the chief said. “They saved the man’s life.”
Bancroft, 32, has been a Saugus police officer since 2020. He joined the department as a dispatcher back in 2016. He was one of three members of the Saugus Police Department who were credited with helping to save a newborn baby boy’s life after he was born unresponsive in his parents’ minivan on the side of a town road in January 2019.
Bancroft was the dispatcher who received the 1:35 a.m. call from a frantic man who told them that he was driving to the hospital and his wife was giving birth in their minivan. Bancroft told the man to pull over and that he would send an ambulance and police officers to his location. Bancroft stayed on the phone with the man as the baby was delivered in the back of the van. But the baby was unresponsive. The baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he was not breathing.
Bancroft calmly gave instructions to assist the man in removing the umbilical cord from around the baby’s neck and for administering CPR. When the father began giving CPR to the baby, the boy started breathing and crying, according to police. A short time later, police located the vehicle and provided care and comfort to the family until paramedics from Armstrong Ambulance Service arrived.
Officer Limbanovnos, 50, was hired by the town as a police officer in 2021. He was born in the United States and grew up locally until his family moved back to Greece. He was a police officer in Greece for 15 years before deciding to move back to the area, according to the chief.