Officer remembers kids thrown from bridge

Officer remembers kids thrown from bridge

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by Katherine Cook, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 8:14 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 24 at 10:01 AM

PORTLAND -- Just north of the Sellwood bridge the Willamette river stirs up memories for Portland Police Sergeant Pete Simpson. Two years ago he was one of the first responders to a tragic situation.

It was just after midnight. He arrived at the water, shined his flashlight out into the darkness and a boat immediately came speeding to the dock. The man and the woman on the boat yelling they had found two kids in the water. What Sgt. Simpson didn't know was that the children, eight-year old Trinity Smith and her four-year old brother Eldon, had been thrown by their mother off the bridge.

Simpson reached into the darkness and grabbed hold of Eldon. All he knew at that moment was that the boy was not breathing.

"I found myself one foot on the boat, one foot on the dock holding the child doing the splits over the water and in that moment I remember thinking I'm going to fall in the water and sink."

With all his strength Simpson hauled himself and the boy to the dock and started CPR. One round after another on the boys lifeless body. He could not help but think of his own kids and the fact that the little boy wasn't responding.

"My own children are the same age. I could hear his sister crying and I just put his hands on his chest and I told him, I'm sorry buddy, I got to help your sister now."

It is in these moments that officers charged with helping people in horrible situations must also be vigilant to begin the process of learning what happened.

Sgt. Simpson handed Trinity, clinging to him and wrapped in a blanket, to a waiting firefighter.And begin the work of a Detective.

Cheryl Robb was the woman with the boat that heard a child's screams, and with David Haag took their boat out and found Eldon and Trinity. Cheryl remembers finding Trinity.

"Little face up in the air. Her chin was in the water. She was starting to go down. She'd been in the water a long time."

David remembers Eldon. That thought haunts him.

"They boy is what most of all sticks with me, it wasn't a good sight."

Two years later a new high speed Portland Fire rescue boat bears the children's names. It's the "Eldon Trinity," It was originally going to carry the names the other way but eight-year old Trinity Smith wanted her brother to come first.

At the dedication last December little Trinity spoke of her brother with uncommon composure for a girl that has been through so much. "I'm here to honor him", she said, "because I miss him so much and my whole entire family is here."

For his actions, Simpson earned a life saving medal from the police bureau. But the accolade he treasures the most lies in his heart. It's a gift from Trinity herself.

"We got to meet her at grand jury later that week, and her grandmother told her, these are the officers that helped save you, and she looked at us and said, you did that for me? We said yeah, and she said, 'thank you."

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