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A fisherman saved a teen-age girl from drowning in the Black Rock Canal at the foot of West Ferry Street late Thursday afternoon.

Police were summoned to the scene by reports of the struggle. But the girl and companions left the scene before they, or even her rescuer -- Robert Welch, 42, of Purdy Street -- could get her identity.

Welch said he was headed home from a day of fishing with his brother, Edward, when he saw someone shove the girl into the water.

"She was with another girl and a guy, and the guy was in the canal swimming," Welch said. "She was on the rocks by the water when the other girl pushed her in. It was horseplay."

But once she hit the water, the girl started to scream. Welch, about 25 yards from the girl, took action.

"I dropped my fishing gear and started running toward her," Welch said. "She was about 15 feet out when I dove in after her."

Welch said the girl was being carried south by the current and although there were people watching, no one else did anything.

"When I reached her she was going under, but I was able to grab her," he said.

Welch said the girl was panicking, and he had to keep pushing her away to keep her from pulling him beneath the surface.

"I took a lifesaving course back in 1967 with the Job Corps, so I kind of knew something about it," he said. "I kept pushing her away but at the same time I grabbed her by her clothes to keep her up."

Welch said he managed to reach the shoreline where his brother helped pull her up the stone wall.

"I don't know who she is. The police came, but they didn't get her name, either," Welch said. "She walked away with her friends -- the guy swimming and the girl who pushed her in."

"I'm glad I was there at the time," he said.

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