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Volunteer Divers, Deputies Lean on Each Other after St. Louis Park Pond Rescue

Updated: 11/22/2013 7:04 PM
Created: 11/22/2013 12:28 PM KSTP.com
By: Katherine Johnson

It may be part of the job, but it's not a call anyone ever expects to hear.

"I guarantee you every one of them that walks away, yesterday, and thinks about what they just went through," said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.  "What if that was my son or daughter, my niece or nephew, my next door neighbor... it's just the way it is."

Sheriff Stanek is talking about the deputies, officers and volunteer divers who responded within minutes to Thursday's water rescue.

"They're business people, bankers, homemakers, airline pilots. They're volunteers," he said.  "They were paged from home or from a local business and they responded out to the scene."

Tom Smith is a St. Louis Park firefighter, and he's one of the first responders who went into the water searching for the children. His protective suit is built to float, not dive, so once he found the children, he said he had to get them out of the submerged car with his feet.

"I pulled them toward me with my feet and as soon as I could get ahold of them with my hands," Smith explained, "then I pulled the child out of the car with my hands."

Smith had a rope tied around his waist, and police on shore held the other end.

"I basically laid in my back with the child cradled in my arms, and they pulled me in," he said.

Hennepin County offers counseling sessions after any emotionally and physically taxing response, but they also make sure the crews have a safe space to process what happened with each other.

"Because cops and firefighters and paramedics want to talk to cops and firefighters and paramedics," said Stanek.

After all, once the scene is cleared, there's still a job to do, and always another call for help.

"That moment in time will be forever etched in their memories about what happened yesterday morning, particularly for those families and their loved ones and extended families and how it changed their lives forever."

Click here to read the 911 call transcript and a joint statement from the police and fire department.


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