Cameraman from Saranac Lake area saves a life on reality TV

Saranac Lake area native Brent Freeburg saved a man’s life while working as a cameraman on the set of Bravo’s reality TV show “Below Deck.” (Photo provided by Brent Freeman)

SARANAC LAKE — At the stern of the superyacht My Sienna, a rope snared the leg of a deckhand, yanking him into the water. Cameraman Brent Freeburg, a Saranac Lake area native, had a split-second decision to make.

As part of the crew filming the Bravo reality TV show “Below Deck,” a key rule was to never break the fourth wall. It was Freeburg’s job to film and capture the daily life of the luxury yacht’s crew and not interfere in any way.

But the deckhand was in mortal danger.

“As I hit the water, I was fighting to get my head up, to get air,” deckhand Ashton Piennar said in an interview during the episode, “I realized the line is gonna now take tension. It was the most intense force I ever felt in my life the way that that line tightened around my ankle. In that moment, I mentally prepared myself for my foot to be ripped off.”

Freeburg said he waited a beat to see if anyone else was moving — then he acted.

“The easiest method I could see was releasing the lines from the back of the yacht,” Freeburg said in a phone interview Thursday. “In that moment, in the very last second, we were able to get the lines released.”

The episode premiered last Tuesday, but the episode was filmed in Tahiti in the spring.

Freeburg said that he didn’t expect to be included in the show as “we typically want to not interact with the talent. In this show, the fourth-wall line is pretty strict.”

But with the drama of the life-saving action, it became the centerpiece of the episode. Despite not using his Twitter account since 2015, Freeburg shot from 25 followers to more than 1,000 as #BrentTheCameraGuy and #BelowDeck trended on Twitter.

“It was just as scary as it seems,” Freeburg said. “I’m so thankful the outcome was what it was.”

Cheri Fisher of Bloomingdale, Freeburg’s mother, said he’s always been an outgoing, energetic person.

“He was always one of those kids, “If you can do it, then I can do it better.” And he always did,” Fisher said.

“As soon as I heard, my reaction was: of course,” said Adam O’Neill, Freeburg’s friend since their time together at Saranac Lake High School. O’Neill said that because of the adventurous lifestyle Freeburg lives, he would know what to do in that kind of situation.

“It’s the kind of guy he is,” said Bob Eckert of Paul Smith’s, one of Freeburg’s scoutmasters during his time in Troop 12.

Freeburg got into television through his brother, who is also a camera operator. He worked for his brother as a camera assistant while finishing helicopter flight school and decided to stick to the camera work on productions around the world.

“It offers me a lifestyle of being able to travel the world for work,” Freeburg said.

Speaking from the sunny, 70-degree Hermosa Beach in Los Angeles, California, Freeburg said thinking about growing up in Saranac Lake, among the mountains, ice and snow, “it kind of makes time stand still.”