Freeport man thanks hero who saved him and his puppy

A 12-week-old puppy that fell off a boat

A 12-week-old puppy that fell off a boat dock and into the frigid water of Millburn Pond in Freeport on March 4 was not the only one saved by a stranger. After the dog's owner, Freeport resident Nick Secchi, 49, left, jumped into the water to rescue her, he got stuck. Both man and man's best friend were at risk of freezing to death, but fortunately, a contractor working in the area, Blaise Gibson, 45, of Wheatley Heights, noticed their plight and came to their aid. | Here's the story (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa)

Nick Secchi of Freeport Wednesday got to personally thank the man who saved him and his puppy from a life-threatening episode about seven weeks ago.

"It was awesome," said Secchi, 49, who had been looking for the man who gave him a hand when he became stuck in freezing mud and water in a village pond while saving his puppy March 4.

Blaise Gibson, 45, of Wheatley Heights, an independent contractor working on superstorm Sandy-wrecked houses in south Freeport, learned of Secchi's search from media reports.

"He knocked on my door and when I opened it, I couldn't believe my eyes," said Secchi, a New York City sanitation worker who is retired on disability.

Secchi had followed his 12-week-old puppy, Baby Girl, into the water at a Milburn Pond Park bulkhead. He got her out and onto land, but he was stuck.

"The more I struggled, the deeper I went into the mud. After about 15 minutes, it was up to my knees," Secchi said. He added he hollered as loudly as he could, but his voice was muted because hypothermia had set in.

Gibson, who had gone to the park to rest before returning to the job to pack up for the night, said he had seen both man and dog go into the water, which he knew was not deep. "But when, after about 10 or 15 minutes, I didn't see him come out, I thought I should check it out," he said.

He then tried to haul Secchi out, but couldn't. He grabbed the dog, which a woman wrapped in a sweater. He put the puppy in his truck, turned on the heat and got a compressor hose to help pull Secchi out. That also failed.

Finally, Freeport police officers arrived and, with Gibson, they got a freezing Secchi out.

"I did for them what I would want somebody to do for me if I was in trouble," Gibson said.

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