Dusti Talavera was inside her Denver apartment on Sunday afternoon, watching a group of children play on a frozen pond outside her window, when suddenly the icy surface cracked. Then came a splash. Three of the children plunged into the frigid water.
But as she reached for the third child, the ice gave way beneath her and Talavera, too, found herself in the 15-foot-deep pond. She tried to pull herself out, but the ice was too slick, so she treaded water to stay afloat as she struggled to hold the unconscious girl’s head above the surface, she said.
The little girl’s teenage cousin soon appeared, tossing Talavera a rope. She managed to get back onto the surface and pull the 6-year-old to safety.
Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputies arrived to find the girl lying on a sidewalk. She was not breathing and had no pulse, Deputy Justin Dillard said at the news conference. One officer then performed CPR as the other took off the girl’s soaked winter coat.
As the girl began to breathe on her own, the fire-rescue team arrived and took her to the hospital. As of Monday afternoon, she is in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit at Denver Health Medical Center, authorities said, adding that doctors expect her to survive.
‘The ice is separating!’: Dozens of fishermen rescued in Wisconsin after big ice chunk breaks off in Green Bay
The sheriff’s office and South Metro Fire Rescue lauded Talavera for her “heroic” and lifesaving efforts.
“The fact that we had her witness these kids fall in there and her quick reaction … in putting her life at risk for the kids to make sure that they could make it another day is amazing,” Deputy Blaine Moulton said.
Moulton added that the incident should be a reminder to parents to educate their children on ice safety. With weather in Colorado often fluctuating from cold to warm, ice on frozen bodies of water may not be as thick as it seems. Authorities offered similar warnings in Green Bay, Wis., where the Coast Guard and rescue teams on Saturday saved dozens of fishermen who were stranded on a chunk of ice that split off from the bay’s main shoreline.
It was around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday when Talavera saw the children fall into the water. Talavera threw on her shoes and ran out into the cold air and onto the frozen pond, she said. She then pulled out a 4-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy before falling in the water as she attempted to save the 6-year-old.
All Talavera could think during the incident was “Save the kids,” she said.
“Nobody was really outside,” she added. “I just knew it was me that had to do it.”
Recognizing Talavera’s bravery at the news conference moved firefighter Corey Sutton, who has four sons, to tears.
“What she did was amazing,” he said. “We were back at the fire station talking about how brave she was … and, gosh, I hope if this happened to one of [my boys], that somebody like her was close by.”