South Bend officer rescues five-year-old boy from river

NOW: South Bend officer rescues five-year-old boy from river

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A South Bend police officer likely saved a five-year-old boy from drowning Friday after jumping into the St. Joseph River fully-clothed to swim him to safety.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t think it’s ever going to happen until it does happen, and you just do what you have to do,” said Officer Reid Spitaels, the South Bend policeman who rescued the five-year-old boy.

“The call went out as a missing 5-year-old in the 1000 block of La Salle. En route here, dispatch, we got additional notes that the kid was in the river,” he said.

Police say he had fallen in the St. Joseph River and was headed toward the Riverlights waterfalls.

“Being familiar with the area, I just drove down to the park and was flagged down by people who were walking on the sidewalk alongside the kid who was in the river,” said Spitaels.

“When I get out of my car, the kid’s about 20 to 30 yards out in the river…I mean at times you just seen his hands sticking out the water,” he said.

Spitaels says when he saw the boy struggling, he didn’t think twice and jumped in with all of his gear, which already weighs about 20 pounds.

He says the water probably added an extra 20 to 35 pounds.

“When I got out to the kid, he was underwater, and I had to grab him and pull him up to the surface and swam back,” said Spitaels.

The boy was transported to Memorial Hospital, but police say he’s doing fine.

Once Officer Spitaels had a chance to catch his breath and take off his water-logged gear, he humbly admitted that he probably saved that boy’s life.

“Didn’t have time to think about it prior to that, but once the kid’s safe, you have all the time to think about it, and it kind of just sinks in, but just doing my job,” he said.

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