Scott Harris and his family were headed back to the Lady's Island boat landing at about 6 p.m. Sunday when his wife, Stephanie, saw a man falling.
Scott Harris, who was off-duty from his job as a firefighter with the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District, quickly turned the boat around.
He spotted the man flailing near pilings beneath the Woods Memorial Bridge, which links Lady's Island and Beaufort.
Scott Harris jumped in, but the man went under. Harris saw some headphones floating on the water and figured the man was beneath them.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Island Packet
"I felt below the water where the headphones were, and with a little bit of luck, I was able to pull him up," Scott Harris said. "He came up and started screaming that he couldn't swim."
The man wrapped his arms round a piling and held on as Scott Harris tried to calm him and persuade him to let go. Harris was afraid the man would be cut by the barnacles on the piling.
While her husband was trying to get the man away from the piling, Stephanie Harris edged the boat closer and threw a lifejacket. Harris got the man into the lifejacket, while his wife worked to calm their two daughters, ages 5 and 7, who watched the 20-minute ordeal from the boat.
"My 7-year-old was concerned about the rescue," she said. "She was concerned about who the man was and if he was hurt, and about her father and that he might get hurt. I was steering the boat and reassuring them that he would be fine."
A state Department of Natural Resources boat soon arrived and took the man to the Lady's Island landing, while Harris returned to his boat and also headed to the landing.
The man had jumped from the bridge in a suicide attempt after stabbing himself, according to a report from the Beaufort Police Department. He was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital for treatment.
Harris was treated at the scene for cuts caused by barnacles.
Members of the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District, Beaufort Police Department, Beaufort County EMS, and the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office also responded.
News of the rescue spread quickly. Harris joked that it was on Facebook before the family reached the dock.
Stephanie Harris said they began to get calls and text messages before the family left the boat landing, with many saying her husband was a hero.
Scott Harris said he was just happy everyone was safe.
"The hero thing is a little crazy," he said. "I'm just glad it all worked out."
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.