Three hours into a Pennsylvania engagement photo shoot Becki Salmon and her fiance were ready to wrap up as they posed for a few last shots in front of a picturesque creek where a couple of children were playing near the bank.
“In the background I could see the family and the kids and I kind of liked it in my shots. It added some life to it,” photographer Ken Beerger told ABCNews.com this week recalling Saturday’s photoshoot.
Suddenly, Salmon’s friend who was there for the shoot noticed something amiss.
“My friend that was with us pointed out to the water and just said, ‘Does that kid look like he’s struggling? I think he’s struggling,’” Salmon said. “I turned to look just to see his little head bobbing under the water and apparently, according to my friend and my photographer, I pushed my fiance out of the way and ran.”
“I said, ‘Let’s get him’ and Becki was to my right and by the time I even got the words out of my mouth, she was already mid-air, like a Superman-style leap,” Beerger said.
Salmon, 30, rushed into the water with the boy’s mother a few seconds behind her.
“I went in and I grabbed him, pulled him up to me, put him over my shoulder because I couldn’t stand where we were and started telling him to cough up the water and spit it out,” she said.
“He didn’t cry at first, which scared the hell out of me because that’s when you don’t know how bad it is, but then he started crying as soon as he started throwing up the water and spitting it out, so that was the best sound ever,” Salmon said.
Meanwhile, Beerger had been snapping away with his camera and captured the dramatic rescue.
“My first frame was pretty much her reaching the kid and the mother chasing into the water shortly after her, water splashing everywhere,” Beerger said. “You can see the kid’s head is pretty much out of water. The subsequent shots I got are of her bringing the child out, handing the child back to the mom…the kid is paralyzed with fear and/or exhaustion.”
Salmon handed the boy back to his grateful mother and explained that she is a trained lifeguard and paramedic. Coincidentally, her fiance Matt Werner, 33, is an EMT and Beerger is also a trained paramedic.
“This kid was really in the right place at the right time,” Beerger said.
Salmon explained the possibility of a dry drowning, when water gets into the lungs and there is reduced oxygen flow to the brain. It can be fatal if undetected and untreated. She told the mother that there was a hospital nearby and urged her to have the little boy checked out. She believes the boy is around 5 years old and did not get the family’s names.
The Pennsylvania area around Wissahickon Creek has experienced heavy rainfall lately, which caused the water level to be higher and the water to be very cloudy.
“We’ve had all of this rain for the past two weeks…everything is churned up. It was just silt,” Beerger said. “You couldn’t see your fingers if you put your hand underwater and so if he had gone under the water he was going to be gone.”
Salmon echoed the photographer’s fear.
“That’s what I was afraid of,” she said. “Because if it was not much later—seconds later—if he went under, we wouldn’t be able to find him because it was too murky. That’s the big fear.”
The bride-to-be said that in the moment she didn’t think about her engagement pictures or the fact that her hair and makeup were photo-ready.
“If I was in my wedding dress, I would have been in the water just the same,” Salmon said. “You don’t think. It’s an EMS thing. Once you’ve been trained, we’re paramedics 24/7. It’s not just when we’re on the clock. You can’t help it.”