A Terrebonne woman saved the life of a 2-year-old who had wandered from home, crossed Highway 97, and fell into a canal, according to Redmond Police.
Lt. Jesse Petersen said the incident happened around 5:45 Tuesday night when officers responded to the area of Highway 97 and Larch Ave. for a report of a two-year-old running across the highway. Reports said the child had fallen into the canal and was rescued by a passerby.
The passerby, Bailey Vardanega, had been driving north on Highway 97 when she saw a man, later identified as being the 2-year-old’s father, flagging down vehicles when she saw the child run across Highway 97.
She pulled over and watched the child run through the grass and through a fence that separates the canal from the road, Petersen said.
Vardanega was concerned the child was going to run into the canal, so she got out of her car, crossed all four lanes of traffic, and followed the child towards the canal.
While catching up to the child, she watched him fall into the canal, Petersen said.
“There was no second-guessing,” Vardanega said. “There was no do I or do I not.”
Vardanega jumped the fence, jumped into the canal, and swam to the child who was submerged, and had ingested some water and was at serious risk of drowning.
She grabbed ahold of the child and swam him back to the east side of the canal where he was reunited with his father.
“He was probably a good 20 feet ahead of me, down current so I swam to him as fast and as hard as I could,” Vardanega said. “A couple strokes before I got to him, he quit trying to swim. I got him, picked him up let him hang his head down for a second, let him get some water out then I flipped him over and told him he was going to be OK.”
The boy coughed up some water but was breathing and Redmond Fire & Rescue took the child to Redmond St. Charles for a medical evaluation. He was later released.
Vardanega said it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“There was a triple of things that happened throughout the day that got me there at that exact time,” Vardanega said. “Because that kid within a few more seconds was going to need resuscitation.”
Peterson said the preliminary investigation showed the child was being babysat by a grandmother at a house on NE 3rd Street in Redmond, which is east of where the child was found.
The grandmother didn’t notice the child was missing until officers contacted her to ask where he was, Petersen said.
The child’s father was walking home from the area of Grocery Outlet when he saw his son running across Highway 97, Petersen said.
“In the state of Oregon, it is unlawful for a person who has custody/control of a child under 10 years of age to leave the child unattended in or at any place for such a period of time as may be likely to endanger the health or welfare of such child,” Petersen said.
The grandmother, 51-year-old Jodie Ewing of Redmond, was issued a citation for second-degree child neglect and the case has been referred to the Department of Human Services (DHS) and District Attorney’s Office for further review.
The police and fire departments acknowledged Vardanega’s heroic efforts.
“She put herself in great danger when she selflessly crossed a busy four-lane highway and jumped into the cold canal to save the life of a two-year-old child she didn’t know,” Petersen said. “She is a hero and we would like to thank her for the bravery and selflessness she displayed last night.”
The Redmond Police Department is continuing to investigate this incident, if you witnessed this incident or have any knowledge of it please contact the Redmond Police Department through dispatch at 541-693-6911.