AURORA, Ill. (CBS) — In Aurora six firefighters along with seven police officers have been honored for their efforts in saving the life of a 14-year-old girl.
Steven Prosser said he can’t even begin to know how to thank the men who saved his daughter the night that she and three others were in a car that was submerged in a retention pond off of I-88.
“That night, when I got to Mercy, I thought I had lost my daughter based upon everything that I had heard walking into that door. But the action of these gentleman here saved my daughter and gave us the opportunity to celebrate this today,” he said.
Fourteen-year-old Annie Prosser and two others were pulled from the water. Annie was revived. Twenty-year-old Emory Diaz-Sepulveda died at the scene.
On Tuesday, Annie Prosser was laughing, talking, and – most importantly – alive.
“It feels good. I didn’t think I’d be this good,” she said.
Annie tearfully talked about those who saved her from drowning.
“It’s amazing. They’re amazing,” said Annie Prosser.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports Annie’s parents have called it a miracle, considering, on March 9, her lifeless body was pulled from an ice-covered retention pond just off the I-88 exit ramp at Eola Road.
She’d been trapped underwater for 25 minutes after the car she was riding in slid off the ramp and into the pond.
“It was complete chaos,” Aurora Police Investigator Jeff Hahn said. “The car was almost completely submerged underwater.”
Hahn was one of seven gang officers who happened to be nearby, heard the call, and rushed to help.
“It was freezing cold, but I knew my other guys weren’t going to quit, and there was no way that we were gonna stop,” he said.
“That water was so murky, you couldn’t see anything; so just touch and feel was all we were really working off of,” said Aurora Police Investigator Greg Christoffel.
On Tuesday, the seven officers received Medals of Valor for saving Annie, even after fire department rescuers told them to stop; even though it was not their job.
“If they didn’t do what they did that night, this would be a totally different story,” Annie’s father, Steven Prosser said.
Still, the officers hesitated to call themselves heroes.
“I’m confident personally that anybody else that I work with in this police department would have done the exact same thing that day,” Christoffel said.
The recipients were: Special Operations Investigators Greg Christoffel, Ed Doepel, Nick Gartner, Jeff Hahn, Erik Swastek, Josh Sullivan, and Officer Chris Coronado.
The firefighters that were honored were: Paramedics Brett Svedsen, Dan Ahasic, Dan Kveton, Tom Contreras, Jerry White and Diver, Lt. Kris Tappendorf.
Though they were proud of their awards, the officers remained shaken, because they couldn’t save the 20-year-old driver, Emory Diaz-Sepulveda, who drowned.
“Deep down, we know that there was one person we couldn’t get out of that water, and that’s also something that we all kind of have to deal with, and live with,” Hahn said.
That I-88 exit ramp is level with the Tollway, and about 20 feet from the water’s edge, with no guardrail. Annie’s father has been fighting to get one installed there, and Tollway officials say it is being considered.