Neighbor plunges in to save a 4-year-old
INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Four-year-old Christian Pfuhl was playing outside when he evidently wandered away from his town house complex.
To his mother, Jolene Nelson, the boy seemed to be missing forever. It was more like 20 minutes, but she had additional reason for worry: Christian has autism, which means he has trouble communicating.
With police called and the neighborhood alerted, a frantic search began.
Enter Rick Pedrow, who had just arrived home Sunday evening. When he realized he had forgotten something in his car, Pedrow -- dressed in boxer shorts and a T-shirt -- went out to the driveway to retrieve it. A passing police officer alerted him that a little boy was missing.
Pedrow joined the search. A couple of neighborhood kids told him they had seen a little boy, who was wet, playing near a deep ditch.
The ravine is about one-third of a mile in circumference, ringed by town homes and a parking lot. It has a steep bank on one side.
Near the bottom is a marsh overgrown with cattails, weeds and brush tall enough to easily obscure a child. Because of the recent rains, the water was unusually deep in the gully.
Pedrow waded waist deep into the muck, saw ripples in the water and spotted a boy walking in shoulder-deep water toward an even deeper part of the pond.
Pedrow called out, but the boy didn't respond. He caught up to the child and carried him up the hill to safety.
The wide-eyed child wrapped his arms around his rescuer's neck and his legs around Pedrow's waist. His head rested on Pedrow's shoulder. The child clung tightly and wouldn't let go, even as officers and neighbors gathered around.
"I don't think he was coming out of there, unless somebody got him out of there. I think he would have drowned without making a single sound," Pedrow said. "The credit to all of this goes to God. I was just the vessel and the tool used to pull the boy out."
His wife, Karla Pedrow, who had joined the crowd of neighbors, said it was a proud sight: Her husband, standing there in his wet, dirty boxers and T-shirt, with a frightened but safe child clinging to him.
Next time, though, she might ask him to dress a little more substantially when he goes out to the car.