CBSN

Saving Dad's Life

The Early Show, Jessie Bowron
CBS/The Early Show
It's not unusual for parents and their children to argue. The Bowrons of Illinois are no exception.

But what happened to them last month brings new meaning to the importance of family and of being in the right place at the right time. The Early Show correspondent Debbye Turner reports.

On Tuesday, May 20, Jessie Bowron told her mom she wanted to stay home from school. She said she wasn't feeling well. It was an excuse her mother had heard one too many times before. But on this day, staying home turned out to be a lifesaving decision.

Her mom Laura says, "It had to be about two, two-thirty in the afternoon. I was cleaning the kitchen when I got the page to come help him, and I just picked up the phone and said 'OK, I'll be right there...'

Steve Bowron was mowing the lawn when his tractor got stuck in the mud.

Laura and Jessie jumped in their car and headed down to the lake. At first glance, the situation didn't look that bad. Laura says, "The tractor was stuck a bit on an angle, no big thing."

But the tractor shifted and in a matter of seconds, everything changed

Here is a recount of a 911 call Laura made moments later:

Dispatcher: 911 what is your emergency?
Operator: A man's drowning there
Dispatcher: A man's drowning there?
Steve Bowron: Someone hold me up
Operator: Ma'am, go ahead ...
Laura Bowron: uh, my tractor flipped over in the lake, I've got it hooked to my truck trying to keep the weight off of him but he's drowning under it.
Dispatcher: Hang on, I'm going to get somebody in route, OK?

Steve's tractor flipped on top of him, pinning him underneath.

He says, "I really thought that I was going to die that day."

He has a lot to be thankful for. "Yes, very, very thankful," he says.

Jessie describes her father's ordeal and her reaction to it, "He was sitting there bobbing his head up and down because he couldn't breathe and he kept getting water in. I jumped in and held his head up like right over there."

Her mother adds, "No one had to tell her to jump in, save him, rescue him, you know, hold his head up, she did this on natural instincts."

Steve notes, "She didn't care about her own safety, I was, like, 'if the tractor starts to move, Jess, just let it go and get out of here and she was, like, 'I'm not going to leave your side, Dad.'"

Some of the words she said to her Dad were "It's going to be OK," and "You're not going to drown" and "There's help on the way," Jessie recalls.

Local volunteer firefighters were the first on the scene

Pat Kirane of the Boone County Volunteer Fire Department says, "The only thing that was out of the water was his eyes, his nose and his mouth, just a little more and he would have been under water. And I do agree, his daughter is a hero."

Mel Johnson, also of the volunteer fire department, adds, "She saved his life, I would say, in no simple terms. If there was nobody around, he probably wouldn't be here today."

The local newspapers and television stations took notice of Jessie's bravery and so did Court TV. They honored her as one of their everyday heroes.

So what does being called a hero sound to Jessie? "Exciting," she says, "But I don't see it in that way, I'm just seeing it that I helped my dad out."

Her mom says, "She's a hero in my eyes, I mean, for someone to take it upon herself, without being told, for her age, and didn't panic, and stood in the water with cold and oil and diesel, she's amazing."

Jessie has shown subtle signs that she understands the magnitude of what she did that day.

Steve says, "I think it's brought us a little bit closer. Every night, now, she's saying, 'Goodnight, Dad. I love you.'"

He adds, "She's definitely my hero. There's no words to explain my gratitude or my love towards my daughter for this."

When Jessie jumped in the water to save her dad, she was wearing a brand new sweatshirt.

Not something you would normally notice, except Jessie's sweatshirt had some very unusual words printed across the front, "Lucky."