HUGHSON (CBS13) – A Turlock middle school teacher is being hailed a hero for rescuing a dying man from the Tuolumne River. But this isn’t the first time this science and math instructor has saved a life.

Elias Ruiz went to the Tuolumne River Sunday morning to hunt duck and chose a spot he rarely visits, but was at the right place at the right time.

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“I’m glad we were there that day — that location, that time,” said Elias Ruiz.

Ruiz thought the gurgling sound he heard on the Tuolomne River for nearly an hour was from an animal.

“And then I saw his skin,” said Ruiz.

That’s when he realized it was man.

“His hands were white and shriveled and I couldn’t really get a pulse on his wrist. He was just very cold,” he said.

That day, Ruiz took out the raft he’d just invented.

“This is an easy system,” he said, explaining the raft.

It was a raft he’d made in his garage that won him $5,000 in prizes from a local competition just two days before.

For some reason, he chose that spot near the bank where, more than four hours prior, a man dropped his keys, slipped down the embankment and landed in the cold water.

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“He was already hypothermic, and I even thought he might’ve been dead,” said Ruiz.

He called 911 right away and knew exactly what to do next.

“I was trained to save lives, yeah,” he said.

Ruiz used to be a medic in the Navy. He grabbed the man’s jacket and brought him to the bank, wrapping him in a wool blanket. He used a whistle to guide firefighters to their location.

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

Ruiz can now add hero to his already impressive resume.

“I got an applause from some of my students today — hugs from other teachers…a lot of recognition,” said Ruiz.

He says the man he rescued plans to contact him when he gets out of the hospital.

A spokesperson for the hospital says the man is now in good condition.

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