06/14/2012 02:24 pm ET Updated Jun 14, 2012

Emmanuel Gonzalez, Chicago Teen, Rescues Man From River While Kayaking (VIDEO)

Paramedics say a man who fell into the Chicago River Wednesday afternoon might have drowned had a nearby kayaker not come to the rescue.

A man dressed in a suit and tie believed to be between age 30 and 40 fell into the Chicago River around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reports. Witnesses told police he was sitting on the Riverwalk reading near the Clark Street bridge when he appeared to "roll into" the water, possibly after suffering some kind of medical emergency.

The hero being credited for grabbing the man and holding his head above water is far from an experienced kayaker or rescue personnel--it's Emmanuel Gonzalez, 17, a first-time kayaker who graduates from high school Thursday, according to CBS Chicago.

“I got him from the neck...with his shirt, and just pulled him up,” Gonzalez told the station, adding that he thought at the time that "it was meant for me to kayak, and help someone" that day.

(Watch CBS's interview with Gonzalez below.)

Marine Unit officers recovered a suitcase believed to have belonged to the man with some identifying information, but the man's name has not been released, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The man was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Marine Unit Sgt. Karl Hajdu told the newspaper "the kayaker had a lot to do with [the rescue]."