BWC video: Little hand reaching from flipped van leads Fla. deputy to trapped child
Deputy Rizer pulled the child free and handed her to a bystander. He then looked for a boy who was unaccounted for and “unresponsive” somewhere in the vehicle
By Mark Price
The Charlotte Observer
TAMPA, Fla. — A grim scene of screams and chaos greeted one Florida sheriff’s deputy when a minivan crashed and flipped with a mom and her five children inside, video shows.
It happened around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6, near Tampa, and Sgt. Donnie Rizer arrived to find multiple bystanders using their shoulders to keep the teetered van from flipping onto its roof.
Two children were still somewhere in the vehicle when Rizer saw a tiny hand reaching for the sunroof, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
It led him to a little girl who was unable to detach her seat belt and in shock as she worried about finding her shoes, the video shows.
“I can’t unbuckle this,” the child says, as Rizer reaches for her. “I don’t have my shoes.”
“I’m going to come get ya,” he says. “Come here, baby. ... We’ll get your shoes.”
It took Rizer just seconds to pull the child free and hand her to a bystander. He then continued searching for a boy who was unaccounted for and “unresponsive” somewhere in the vehicle.
The boy was located when Rizer spotted fingers moving between rows of seats that had detached from the floor as the van flipped. Bystanders were coordinated to hold the van upright as Rizer crawled inside to free the boy, officials said.
All five children were hospitalized, officials said, but injuries were minor, considering of “seat belt burn” and bruising. The children ranged in age from infancy to 9 years old, officials said.
The family was exiting U.S. Highway 301 onto Interstate 75 South in Riverview when they were “t-boned” by another car, investigators say. Multiple bystanders stopped to help, the video shows.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister praised Rizer for keeping a cool head during the incident.
“In a moment that exemplifies heroism, Sgt. Rizer came across a crash. With a minivan overturned and good Samaritans trying to help, he swiftly took charge. Trapped inside was a distraught mother with five children, but only four were accounted for,” Chronister said in the release.
“Sgt. Rizer’s determination led him to discover two small fingers through the sunroof. Risking his own safety, he removed his vest and equipment belt and crawled into the vehicle, rescuing the last child and ensuring their safety.”