12/19/2014 05:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Navy Veteran-Turned Teacher Uses Raft He Invented To Rescue Man Who Was Drowning

This man's quick thinking helped him save a life in danger.

Elias Ruiz, a high school teacher and Navy veteran, was duck hunting on the Tuolumne River in California early last Sunday morning, when he heard a strange noise, CBS Sacramento reported.

I could hear a sloshing sound,” Ruiz told the Turlock Journal. “I thought maybe it was a cow or some wildlife coming to get something to drink, but the more I heard it, the stranger it sounded.”

But as the sun rose, the hunter could see a shape begin to form a few yards away, and realized that the sound wasn't coming from an animal, at all.

I could see something dark in the water, and eventually I could see a jacket and pant line and knew it was a person,” Ruiz told the Turlock Journal, recalling what he saw.

The teacher, who was on board a prize-winning raft he had invented, dialed 911, and hurried over to the drowning man, whose hands had already turned white from the cold temperature of the water, CBS reported. Ruiz grabbed on to the man's jacket and pulled him to shore and led the firefighters to him, using a whistle.

When responders found the two, the gentleman, whose name they discovered is Keith, showed many signs of hypothermia, the Turlock Journal reported. Keith explained that he had stopped in the area from car trouble and had accidentally dropped his keys into the river. He fell in, attempting to retrieve the keys.

While the firefighters were grateful that Ruiz was able to save Keith, the teacher was just relieved he was at the right place at the right time.

“If I hadn’t been there and nobody wouldn’t have shown up in the next 60 minutes or maybe even less," Ruiz told CBS. "He would’ve died.”

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