Back in 1990, a 135-pound chimpanzee named Jo-Jo slipped into water at the Detroit Zoo after being chased by another chimp. Dozens of visitors and zoo workers watched as he thrashed around helplessly.

There was a cable in the enclosure, designed to keep chimps from falling into the water. But on this fateful day, the cable didn’t do its job.

Truck driver Rick Swope stood in horror alongside his wife and three children. He saw the look on the 18-year-old chimp’s face and knew he couldn’t just stand back and do nothing. It were as if Jo-Jo was begging for an onlooker to come and rescue him — and that’s exactly what Swope did.

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