14-year-old aunt was babysitting when 1-year-old nearly drowned in pond, according to JSO report

Man who helped JSO officer talks to News4JAX about the rescue efforts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – News4JAX talked to the man who helped a JSO officer rescue a 1-year-old from a near drowning on the Westside

John Bell said no one told him to jump in the water. “It was just a matter of self-instinct because I have kids,” Bell said. “I have passion for kids so I didn’t hesitate.”

The report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office states a resident saw a 1-year-old girl in a pond behind Building 2 of the Madelyn Oaks Apartments off Lenox Avenue and called the police. Another witness reported they saw another child in the pond struggling to swim.

Bell said he was working on an air conditioning unit when he heard commotion. “I looked up and saw an officer, a JSO officer, running towards the retention pond,” Bell said. “And that’s when I saw the baby and the baby was slumped over.”

Bell said the girl was floating face down in the water. “The baby had floated, I would say, at least about, between 18-20 feet out from the edge.” Without hesitation, Bell jumped in to help the officer, in water that was about 7 to 8 feet deep.

“She [the officer] grabbed the baby first and she handed the baby to me because she was saying she couldn’t swim so she handed me the baby and I was able to bring the baby out,” Bell said.

Once on land, the officer began CPR on the 1-year-old. Bell said the baby got a heartbeat.

A 14-year-old told police she was watching two children for her sister. She said she fed the little girl Thursday morning and put her back to bed. According to the report, the aunt said she went to sleep and when she woke the 2-year-old boy was in the room, but the girl was missing.

The report said the teen called the children’s mother when she couldn’t find the 1-year-old girl. When the mom arrived, witnesses told police they heard her yelling “my baby, my baby is in the pond.” One of the witnesses also said they saw the second child outside the pond.

JSO said on Thursday the 1-year-old was in “very critical condition” at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital, Bell said he is praying she will be okay.

News4JAX called the hospital on Friday and learned the child remains in critical condition.

According to the report, DCF investigators were notified. News4Jax has reached out to DCF for comment, and they are looking into our request. JSO said Thursday everyone involved was cooperating.