Ind. man saves 2 children from drowning
By Megan Jula
Jeremy Parks was hanging Disney decorations for his daughter Josie’s seventh birthday party on Saturday when he heard the screaming.
Two children, neighbors, were at the front door of the Parks family’s Indianapolis home, crying out for someone to save three children who had fallen through the ice in a nearby pond.
“We need help,” Parks recalled them saying. “They’re going to die.”
Parks, a 33-year-old mechanic, ran out in his slippers to a large retention pond along the 6800 block of Devinney Lane in southwest Marion County.
As he approached the pond, Parks saw 11-year-old Jaylen Bland pulling himself out of the water.
Jaylen, who is Park’s second cousin, was shaking and crying.
“Don’t worry about that, don’t look at them,'” Parks remembers saying to Jaylen. “Go home, get warm, tell your grandma to call 911.”
Christina Bland, Jaylen’s mother, later said the boys were carelessly playing around on the half-inch thick ice, sliding farther and farther out until it broke.
Parks, a father of four, recognized the two other boys in the water: brothers Rodrigo and Pablo Jimenez, who he thinks are about 8 and 6. They often rode their bikes up and down his street.
The older boy, Rodrigo, was swimming enough to keep his head afloat in the football field-size, 35-foot deep pond.
Pablo was flopping around about 30 feet from the bank.
“One moment he was on his back with his mouth open, the next moment he was on his stomach,” Parks said.
Parks stepped onto the ice in socks, thermal underwear, jeans and a T-shirt.
He fell into the water as he put his full weight on the ice.
Survival instinct kicked in, he said, and he swam back to shore.
“I kind of kick myself in the butt for that,” Parks said.
Thinking quickly, he found a stick about six feet long to pull in Rodrigo.
He laid down, his torso flat against the ice, and after several attempts was able to pull the older boy to safety on land.
“I thought no, this time he is coming back with me,” he said.
He reassured a panicking Rodrigo that he would save his brother, too.
By then, neighbors were starting to gather.
One tried to reach Pablo, but she, also, fell through the ice.
With a neighbor’s broom in his hand, Parks edged on his hands and knees toward Pablo.
“You could see the blueness in his lips, in his hands,” he said. “He couldn’t even grab a hold of the broom handle when I put it right in his hand.”
Parks could hear the ice underneath him cracking. Knowing he had to reach the boy before the ice gave out, Parks lunged into the water.
He was able to grab Pablo, who was conscious but not responding, and swim back with one hand. But with ice in the way and weighed down by the boy and wet clothes, he wasn’t making much progress until a neighbor threw him a garden hose.
To grab the hose, he had to let go of Pablo. The boy began to sink, and Parks grabbed him again. At this point, his legs were numb, Parks said.
Neighbors pulled him in by the hose, using his body to break through the ice like a battering ram.
Ten feet from the edge, he couldn’t hold on any longer.
“The hose and the boy came out of my hand,” Parks said.
Struggling to breathe, Parks realized he was starting to drown. It was a situation where seconds seem like minutes, Parks said.
But with one last surge of adrenaline, he latched onto the hose, grabbed Pablo, and was pulled to land by his neighbors.
Immediately, a neighbor gave Pablo CPR and carried him to paramedics who were just arriving on the street.
According to a Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division press release, Pablo initially appeared to be in good condition when transported to Riley Hospital for Children. He was released Sunday evening. The other boys were released at the scene.
When Parks fell trying to walk, his neighbors carried him.
“Just take me home,” Parks said.
After 10 minutes inside his living room, he began to shake from the cold. Paramedics were treating Jaylen in Parks’s son’s bedroom.
“You could have put a wooden stick in my mouth,” Parks said, laughing, “and I would have chewed it up.”
But, he added, he decided he didn’t need to go to the hospital like the paramedics suggested to treat hypothermia.
Christina Bland said Jaylen is doing well other than a few scrapes. She was on her way to pick up her son and daughter from her mom’s house in the neighborhood when she got a call about the accident.
“To hear that your child fell, knowing that it’s winter and it’s icy, there’s a lot of danger involved,” she said. “Thank God Jeremy was there and he responded the way he did, because you know it could have been all three of them gone.”
Sunday evening, after Pablo was released, the Jimenez family stopped by to thank Parks with a gift basket and beer.
“I don’t have to swim for you now,” Parks said as he hugged Pablo.
The night before as he tried to salvage Josie’s birthday, Parks said he couldn’t stop thinking about Pablo.
“I got a kid that’s close to his age,” Parks said. “If he had died, I’d have just sat here with a big burden on my shoulders thinking what I could have done differently. I hope I never have to experience anything like that again. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I had to.”