SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — An 8-year-old boy was reunited with the police officers who saved his life Saturday.
Cardin Nguyen was with his older brother, Andy, and their babysitter when he decided to step into the raging waters of the Santa Ana River.
"We went there taking pictures of neat stuff," Cardin said.
CBS2's Joy Benedict was there when Cardin was reunited with four Santa Ana officers who helped save his life.
The boy's brother, their babysitter and a homeless man all tried to rescue Cardin to no avail. Andy was able to get out of the river blacks away on his own. But police also had to rescue the babysitter (early reports identified her as Cardin's mother) and the homeless man.
Facing cameras at the Sana Ana Police station, Cardin seemed to forget exactly how he ended up in the water. But his older brother remembered just fine.
"We told him not to go in the middle, but he just wanted to go in there. And he got sucked away," Andy said.
Being 12, and an older brother, Andy didn't hesitate to try to help.
"Then I jumped in to try to save him," Andy said, "but then I went past him."
Andy, the babysitter and the homeless man were all unable to reach Cardin. They all screamed for help. For 17 blocks.
The water was no joke.
"It was very cold," Cardin said.
By this time, police were called. They're not trained for river rescues but that didn't matter.
"I'm a father of three and if police officer responded to a similar call with my kids in danger, I would want them to act," said Officer Gabriel Esparza.
Andy was feeling helpless until the police arrived.
"It was fast-moving and it wasn't stopping and every time I tried to stood up, it just pushed me back down."
"The [homeless] man who entered the river, he was going under water because he was trying to keep [Cardin] the kid afloat," said Esparza.
"He was able to grab a hold of the child, I was able to grab a hold of the lady in the water and the two newer officers they were able to help the Good Samaritan," said Officer Rick Velasquez.
Cardin didn't want to talk much about his ordeal. "It's scary being on the news," he observed.
But Cardin did know what to say when someone helps you.
"Thank you!," he said.
And while this 8-year-old does not yet know the gravity of his actions, no biggie. As Benedict reported, he has a big brother who will likely never let him forget.
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