When things go bad, sometimes there’s help around that makes the difference between life and death. Being in the right place at the right time enabled a Medley police officer to save a life last Saturday afternoon, March 14.
Quick action by two witnesses and Medley Police were the combination that saved a life when a woman intentionally jumped into a canal and was on the verge of drowning.
Two male residents were on the back patio of their Medley home on Northwest South River Drive at 72nd Avenue (Okeechobee Road and 16th Avenue in Hialeah) and saw an elderly woman step over the canal guard rail and jump feet first into the murky water.
One man yelled at the woman and the other dialed Medley police directly instead of 9-1-1. Luckily for everyone involved, the incident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. — shift change time for Medley Police — and about a dozen officers, including Chief Jeanette Said-Jinete, were about five blocks away at a Health Fair at Tobie Wilson Park.
Medley Police were on the scene within a minute and an officer threw a float device for the woman to grab onto but she refused.
Officer Roly Lugo was the first to shuck his gun belt, shoes and shirt and dive into the canal. A witness said the woman had been bobbing up and down but disappeared under the surface just as Lugo reached her.
Lugo pulled the woman up and grabbed an orange lifesaver on a rope that had been tossed by other officers. The pair were then pulled to the canal bank on the Hialeah side as Lugo kept the victim afloat on her back.
Since the Hialeah side has a steep concrete riverbank instead of a sloping grass and dirt, rescuers had to use ropes to reach the officer and victim. Medley and Hialeah police officers and Hialeah rescue workers helped Lugo raise the woman up the steep 15-foot bank.
Lugo said the victim was breathing but not responding to any questions. The unidentified woman was taken to a hospital for evaluation and on Monday she was said to be in stable condition.
“It was a group effort,” said Lugo. “Everyone was getting ready to jump in but I was the first to get down to my pants. I just did what I was trained to do.”
Medley Sgt. Artie Jinete said, “We saved a life. She obviously wanted to take her life. She was in the middle of the canal when we got there. She went under as Officer Lugo got to her. It was a matter of seconds but Lugo got her.”
Jinete said the rescue operation was a success because of assistance from Medley officers, Hialeah Gardens Police and Hialeah Police and rescue workers.
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years,” said Sgt. Jinete. “I couldn’t be prouder of the teamwork. It was a joint effort when time was of the essence.”
The sergeant lauded residents Armando Perez and Alvaro Sanchez, who watched the woman jump into the canal and then immediately called police.
“I’m going to recommend Lugo for a life-saving award and commendations for the entire afternoon shift,” said Jinete.
Chief Said-Jinete said, “Great teamwork with all the agencies working together: Medley, Hialeah Gardens, Hialeah police and fire. That’s what made it work.”
Besides Lugo, the chief and sergeant, Medley officers involved in the rescue included Detective Louis Ponce, and officers Max Saint-Lo, Maria Duron, Sergio Aldana, Elio Cardenas, Cristian Lopez and Jennifer Casanova.
“Witnesses and officers said the woman didn’t say a word,” said Chief Said-Jinete. “I hope she gets the help she needs.”