Officer saves 7-year-old trapped underneath capsized boat in Louisiana

ByOmar Jimenez, CNNWire
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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A Louisiana officer, Sgt. Stephen Rhodes, saved a 7-year-old girl, Jacqueline Toledo, who was trapped underwater underneath a capsized boat.

GRAND ISLE, Louisiana -- A Louisiana officer had just seconds to spare when he got the call that a 7-year-old girl was trapped underwater underneath a capsized boat.

Sgt. Stephen Rhodes was writing a citation for illegal shrimping on the beach in Grand Isle in early May when a boat crashed in front of them.

"(The father) never anticipated those waves acting the way that they were," Rhodes said.

Dario Toledo said a big wave rocked the boat and eventually threw him and his daughter from it.

Toledo's 7-year-old daughter, Jacqueline Toledo, was trapped under the capsized boat with her life jacket on.

A couple of good Samaritans transported Rhodes via ATV to his boat and the race against time was on.

"I came to the back end of the boat where their boat was sitting right there and went in feet first," Rhodes said.

Rhodes used his feet to feel around in what was essentially darkness, until he felt something soft.

"I came up and brought her with me. Her eyes were fixed and open, and there's just a look to people when their heart rate has stopped, it's kind of like a slight haze to the eyes," Rhodes said.

Rhodes put Jacqueline on the back deck of the boat and started two rounds of CPR.

"When I finished that second round of breaths, I saw the vision correct itself. That haziness that we talked about, evaporated," Rhodes said.

When Rhodes went to check for a pulse, he got a heartbeat.

"It's like being cold all night long and then seeing the sun come up and feeling warmth," Rhodes said.

Jacqueline survived after what Rhodes estimates was at least 15 minutes in the water after the initial crash.

The 7-year-old was airlifted to the hospital with Rhodes at her side, but she didn't say a word.

Toledo said Jacqueline doesn't remember anything more than being beneath the boat and then waking up.

Toledo said everyone was scared and crying. He said he thought he was going to lose his daughter as excruciating minutes passed by and she still wasn't found.

Rhodes said he hasn't seen Jacqueline since this happened, so we showed him a picture.

"That's awesome, enjoying the summer, right? Alive and enjoying the summer, like every little kid should," Rhodes said. "I remember seeing a couple of people saying, 'She's (got to) do something great with her life.' That's absolutely not how I look at it. She's here, and she has a chance at life. That's what matters."