“We think about it all the time, to be honest with you,” Officer Michael Madrid said. “It will be with us forever.”
On June 3, 2023, Officer Madrid and Officer Andrew Wood were parked a few hundred yards away from the reservoir. They say they happened to be in the area looking at the high water levels.
“It was unexplainably unexplainable,” Madrid said. “It was pretty crazy that we were in the right place at the right time.”
That afternoon, a van rolled into the reservoir with a mom and her two kids still inside. The woman and her son were able to escape, but the 12-year-old girl was trapped inside underwater.
“We had to do something,” Sergeant Chris Thompson said. “If we didn’t, it likely would’ve turned out differently.”
Police say people who saw it happen tried to get in the water to help but it was too cold. Wood and Madrid radioed Sergeant Thompson for backup, took off their equipment and body cameras, then dove into the reservoir.
“When we got to the water and couldn’t see the van it was at that point we just knew simultaneously that we’re going to go in,” Officer Wood said.
The officers say they first tried to get in the van through the door but because of the water pressure, it didn’t open. Next, they tried to break in using a pry bar and a hammer. They say it didn’t work.
“When all efforts were lost, that’s when it was Officer Wood’s idea,” Madrid said. “We’ve got to use something else. A hard-duty weapon.”
When Sergeant Thompson got to the reservoir, he gave Officer Wood his gun. Officer Wood took the gun, dove back in, and shot out the van’s window.
Together, Madrid and Wood pulled the 12-year-old to shore. Sergeant Thompson performed CPR until EMS arrived. They took her to the hospital. She survived.
“It’s just one of those situations you’ve heard of and seen on TV but you never really think that you’re going to be involved with,” Thompson said.
Overall, Wood and Madrid were underwater for about 2 minutes. The entire process, from the person warning them, to EMS showing up?
“It felt like we were in the water for about 20-30 minutes,” Thompson said. “We watched the video and we were like, the whole thing was less than 10 minutes.”
Just 10 minutes to save a girl’s life, and officers say forever change their own.
“It was a learning experience for me,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of adrenaline and moments where you’re afraid but you kind of push that fear and the uncertainty of your safety into the back of your mind and just focus on the mission. That day it was saving a child.”
Officers say they don’t take credit or view what they did as heroic.
“I don’t like to be classified as a hero,” Madrid said. “It was a collective effort between the three of us there.”
It’s a day they say they’ll never forget.
“There are moments throughout your career that you’re going to remember forever,” Thompson said. “Ones like this…those are the good memories you want to hold onto.”
The 12-year-old girl and her family asked police to remain anonymous. Officers say they reunited with her in the past two weeks. They say she’s healthy and doing well.