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'I Felt A Leg And I Pulled Her Out:' St. John, Indiana Police Officer Recounts Rescuing Submerged Baby After Car Went Into Water

ST. JOHN, Ind. (CBS) -- A baby was left submerged in a sinking car following a police chase in Northwest Indiana over the weekend.

The 8-month-old was pulled from the water with a toddler, and the officer who made the lifesaving rescue spoke out on CBS 2 Monday.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, the man and woman who led police on the chase were in custody Monday in Lake County, Indiana. The two children rescued were not in car seats, and the baby was underwater.

"She went off the road and into the water - let them know there's kids in the car!" an officer was heard saying over dispatch radio.

But officers didn't know about the kids right off the bat.

"All I could see was water," said St. John police Officer Darrell Shaffer.

Shaffer jumped into the 12 feet of dark cold water and made his way to the submerged Kia.

"I saw the 3-year-old floating in the back," Shaffer said.

The baby was not floating.

"There were two bags of clothes I moved out of the way and I still couldn't see the baby," Shaffer said. "And then I reached in the water. I felt a leg and I pulled her out, upside down, out of the water."

Both the baby and the 3-year-old were rushed to an ambulance, and both are OK.

It all started as a traffic stop by Lake County, Indiana Sheriff's police officers at 11:08 p.m. Sunday. A driver was spotted speeding near 101st Street and White Oak Avenue in St. John, according to the sheriff's office.

Police said driver, a man with a warrant, got out and ran from officers after they removed him from the vehicle.

Ironically, the driver ended up in a different retention pond. He was yelling that he couldn't swim, and he had to be rescued by officers.

Meanwhile, the woman in the car with the driver at the time of the stop moved to the driver's seat herself; and sped off.

"And nearly struck a couple Lake County officers, almost ran them over," said St. John police Chief Steven Flores.

The woman crossed over into Illinois and headed north on Route 394, then drove back into Indiana on Interstate 80/94, or the Borman Expressway. She got off the expressway at Kennedy Avenue in Hammond, and was going so fast that she eventually lost control - flying off the ramp and into the retention pond.

The woman never told police there were kids in the car with her in the pond.
Officer Shaffer said because of the dark, tinted windows, he couldn't see a thing until he physically made it up to the car in the water.

"All first responders - we see stuff that people should just never see, and sometimes it hits home," Shaffer said.

Shaffer is a father himself, and told us he was glad both of the kids he got out of that car were OK late Monday.

But it remained unclear to police Monday why the adults took off.

"When you have kids of your own, and you see them struggling?" Shaffer said.
"It's not their fault. They did nothing wrong. They were in a bad situation they should never have ever been put in."

The case is with the Lake County, Indiana Sheriff's Office now, where the adults involved are in custody. But Lake County hasn't addressed any of our questions - like what the adults are charged with, and where those kids are right now.

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