St. Charles Officer Dives Into Fox River to Pull Woman From Car
- This article is written by Dan Campana and is reposted from Ten Two News, an online niche news website focused on the positive accomplishments, acts and achievements of local law enforcement. To subscribe, click on www.tentwonews.com/
- Editor’s Note: This week (May 7-13, 2017) is Public Service Recognition Week. This story is part of a series celebrating public service in Kane County.
St. Charles Police Officer Charles Crumlett got home late from his usual midnight shift, but didn’t get a chance to tell his wife why before she rushed off for work.
“We had a busy night,” Crumlett recalled telling her in his apology.
What Crumlett didn’t have a chance to explain was that barely an hour into his April 17 shift he was swimming in the Fox River off the shore of Pottawatomie Park to rescue a woman who mistakenly drove her SUV into the water just before 10 p.m. that night.
Another St. Charles officer happened to be in the park’s parking lot when the 26-year-old St. Charles woman made a wrong turn.
“Instead of making a right, she made a left – right would go up the hill (to exit the parking lot), left went into the river. Not high speed or anything, but (she) pulled into the river,” Crumlett, an 11-year department veteran, said.
Four or five officers were on scene when Crumlett arrived. His main question was about the driver, who he learned was still inside the Honda CRV bobbing in the cold water about 70 feet offshore.
“I just dropped my stuff and went. This was the least amount of thinking I’ve done,” he explained. “I’ve done traffic stops where I’ve thought more than this. This was just more of a reaction.”
Wearing just an undershirt, pants and boots, Crumlett swam his “stocky” 6-foot, 260-pound frame out to the SUV. The distance felt farther than what firefighters estimated, although the current wasn’t as swift as others thought. Crumlett said he somehow made it the woman’s vehicle before anyone else who hit the water in the rescue effort.
“I’m not sure how that happened … I’m not a bad swimmer, but I’m not that good,” Crumlett said. “I got out there and I realized I dropped everything I had, including anything I had to break the window.”
Unable to open the doors, Crumlett turned his attention to the panicked woman who was sitting on the back of the SUV’s back seat. He considered trying to punch out one of the windows, but another officer brought him a baton. It took two strikes to break a window in order to pull the woman out.
Crumlett swam her part of the way back before asking if she could make it to firefighters waiting nearby.
“I was pretty well tired at that point, so I sort of pushed her toward the firemen,” Crumlett recalled.
He pushed himself to the limit. His legs didn’t want to keep going. A pectoral muscle he tore a few years ago started to cramp.
“It was physically exhausting, but I knew I had enough to do what I needed to do. It was everything I had to get back (to shore),” he said.
Crumlett said the incident shows that the officers, who all have families and children, jumped into the water not thinking about who they were saving — everyone just did what they had to do.
“I’m proud that I did it and very proud of the guys who were with me, too,” Crumlett said. “It was a serious deal. Everyone just reacted.”
He downplayed the significance of his actions, crediting SWAT training for being able to quick think quickly in tense situations.
Of course, all of this happened at the start of his shift. Modesty and his late arrival home the next morning meant there was no time to explain to his wife about the river save.
“She had no idea until the evening when I told her,” Crumlett said, adding that his wife — “an amazing lady” — sent text messages about his heroism to everyone in the family. “There’s no reason to brag. She made a bigger deal than anyone else.”