PAINESVILLE, Ohio — When a group of Painesville police officers pulled up to a city pond last weekend, almost everything was working against them -- time especially. Their instincts, however, could not have been any more true. Now, they're being hailed as heroes for saving a little boy from murky, muck-filled water when seconds truly mattered.
During a sleepy Saturday morning, officers were notified of a 4-year-old boy that had gone missing around 7:45 a.m. Approximately a half-hour later, dispatchers received a call from fishermen at a nearby pond at Kiwanis Recreation Park. Officers that had been canvassing the area searching for the boy knew it couldn't have been a coincidence.
"[The fishermen] reported that they believed they saw a body and immediately our officers put two and two together," said Painesville Police Chief Dan Waterman.
Police said the boy, Paolo Moctezuma, had slipped the latch on the family home's sliding glass door while a family member was sleeping. Police believe the boy traveled down an old access road leading to the north side of the park.
"He was playing around the pond. Maybe he saw the geese in the pond and wanted to play with them. For whatever reason, he entered the pond and began to drown," Chief Waterman said.
When Officer Daniel Thompson, Sgt. Matthew Tycast and Officer Chad Balausky arrived on scene, one of them rushed to the water's edge and scanned the dark, murky pondwater. One second passes. Then two. Then three.Then, the officer closest to the banks suddenly springs into action, alerting the other two men to what he just saw.
The dash camera fixed in the officers' patrol car showed what happened over the next 15 dizzying seconds.
"Equipment and all, they marched right in there and grabbed [the boy], pulled him out and immediately started CPR," Chief Waterman said.
Sgt. Tycast and Officer Thompson trekked into the pond, which was estimated to be about 5 feet deep in that location, and pulled the boy's limp body out. It is unclear how long the boy had been there, but officers said he was initially unresponsive. Officer Balausky fetched a first aid kit and rope to assist the men back to shore.
The officers brought the boy back to the shoreline and started chest compressions, clearing his airways of water and moss.
"There were just precious seconds. Every second that those officers hesitated would have mattered. I think that's why their lack of hesitation -- their immediate march in there to grab him -- probably made the difference in this being a tragedy and this being an event that we can be proud of and thankful for," Chief Waterman said. "They are both field training officers. They spend their time training other officers and they are dedicated individuals. This is not the first time that they have acted under pressure and acted very quickly."
The boy was stabilized at the scene and rushed to the hospital. Expected to make a full recovery, the boy went back home a few days later.
For Sgt. Tycast and Officer Thompson, protecting wasn't enough; the service would come too.
"We went over to the house because we heard the child was out of the hospital and he was doing very well," Chief Waterman said. "[Thompson and Tycast] wanted to go to the house."
They didn't come without "welcome home" gifts. The officers bought toys, Lego, and other knick-knacks. The best gift of all, however, was simply just being there.
"Meeting the family really brought it home. They were overcome with emotion. To see the parents who were overcome with emotion at the officers. They were in tears and hugging the officers. That really meant a lot to us," Chief Waterman said. "There is no question that moments like meeting the parents and seeing that child alive, those validate every reason that they became an officer. I couldn't be more proud."
The boy is expected to make a full recovery.