College kid is a lifesaver

Home from school, Ben Kasdorf was skateboarding with his dog when he saw a teen struggling in Port harbor and jumped in to save him from drowning

IT’S NO EXAGGERATION to call Ben Kasdorf a hero. Kasdorf, who has been trained as a lifeguard, was skateboarding and walking his dog last Thursday when he saw Jameco King Jr. (left) struggling in the water off Coal Dock Park, jumped in and saved the young man. Top photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

If you call Ben Kasdorf a hero, the 21-year-old is likely to shrug it off.

But the title couldn’t be more apt.

On Thursday, July 16, the Port Washington man was skateboarding while taking his dog for a walk around 6 p.m. when he saved a young fisherman who had fallen into the Port Washington harbor off Coal Dock Park.

“I’m just glad I was there,” Kasdorf, a student at San Diego State who is home on break, said. “I didn’t have too much time to think. 

“I can swim. It was jump in or don’t.” 

In the water below was 18-year-old Jameco King Jr. of Saukville, who had been fishing with a couple friends at the park.

His friend caught a fish, King said, but their net didn’t reach to the water so he climbed down the ladder attached to the harbor wall and netted the fish.

After handing the fish to his friend, he started to climb back up.

“Out of nowhere, the ladder broke off,” King said, adding he’s climbed down before and never had a problem. 

He fell into the deep, turbulent water in the area.

He’s not a strong swimmer — “I just barely learned the basics,” King said — so he flailed around trying to stay afloat.

He said his friends told him to kick, but he began to panic. He felt like he was being pulled down and his arms tired. 

About that time, Kasdorf, a former lifeguard and a 2017 graduate of Port Washington High School, was skateboarding with his dog through nearby Fisherman’s Park. 

He heard King’s friends calling for help and saw King in the water.

“The kid was struggling,” Kasdorf said. “He was clearly drowning.”

Without a thought, he skateboarded over to the teens, handed his dog to one of them, took off his shoes and jumped in.

“His head was almost submerged,” Kasdorf said. “I could only see his hair.”

He grabbed King, pulled him above the water and swam toward the wall.

“I’m lucky the kid didn’t struggle,” he said. “He was just so tired.”

King, he said, told him he was afraid he was going to die.

King said he didn’t realize there was anyone in the water with him until Kasdorf grabbed him.

“I was in shock,” he said. “I told him I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was holding onto him hard.”

Kasdorf said that after a few minutes he began to tire, so he yelled up and asked for help. A Cedarburg High student who is a member of the school’s dive team, jumped in and helped him support King while treading water.

About 30 seconds later, Kasdorf estimated, police arrived and threw a life preserver and rescue disc into the water.

And not long after that, the fire department arrived and hooked a ladder to the railing. The three teens then climbed up on their own.

The ambulance crew took over at the top, warming King and checking him out before taking him to Aurora Medical Center in Grafton.

He was treated and released from the hospital after being checked to make sure he didn’t have water in his lungs, King said.

“He’s lucky,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said. “It could have been a tragedy.”

Kasdorf, meanwhile, headed home, dried off, changed, then took his dog for the rest of his walk.

Amazingly, he said, his wallet and cell phone, which he had in his pocket, survived the incident

King said one of his fishing buddies told him he plans to take lifeguard classes.

And while the incident won’t stop him from fishing, which King said is one of his favorite hobbies, “I’m not going down the ladder anymore,” he said. “And I’m going to learn to swim.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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