71-year-old man on crutches jumps into Virgin River to save kids

One of the rescuers, Kim Pollock, 71, points at the The drop in water level where three kids on tubes went under, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Kim Pollock, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Kim Pollock was riding his handcycle Sunday afternoon along the bike path near Man of War Bridge and Sun River in Bloomington Park when he saw some kids on inner tubes floating down the Virgin River.

The drop in water level where three kids on tubes went under, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Kim Pollock, St. George News

The water was moving rapidly from the snow melt, and the 71-year-old St. George resident knew there was a small drop-off just a little farther along in the river that caused a backflow whirlpool effect in water that is over 6 feet deep.

“So I pedaled ahead, and I stopped to watch them go over the waterfall because I thought it might be a little dangerous,” he told St. George News. “The girl – a teenaged girl – was the first one over. And it just sucked her in. Then the other three came by and everyone was screaming, and they could see what was happening.”

There were four kids. One got free on his own and floated downstream, but he said the other three appeared to be in trouble.

One of them went in headfirst over the drop. The water would not let go – it kept pulling them back and under, Pollock said. That’s when he made moves toward the water. Unfortunately, he was not prepared for a swim that day.

“You shouldn’t go jumping in the river with denim blue jeans on, tennis shoes, your wallet, your cell phone and your hearing aids and your glasses,” he said with a laugh.

Pollock was also wearing an 8-pound brace on his leg.

He said he started out thinking he was just going to wade out, stick his crutch out and pull them back in.

“That was Plan A,” he said, “and it didn’t work.”

The drop in water level where three kids on tubes went under, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Kim Pollock, St. George News

The river bottom quickly broke away under foot, and the water sucked him under.

“While it was pulling me under, I had a crutch in each hand, and my glasses started to come off.”

He struggled to get back to shore to remove his glasses, and then he went back in.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get rid of my hearing aids or wallet, but that’s alright,” he said. “I went back in, and it pulled me back in again – I think I went under at least four times.”

Each time he went under, he said he would kick off the bottom in order to get back to the surface. He said he was finally able to reach out and help pull one boy to the shore.

At that time, another bicyclist came by, and he started helping Pollock get the other two kids out.

“He got pulled under as well,” Pollock said. “Between the two of us, we were able to get the other two to shore. If he hadn’t showed up, it could’ve been a longer, more dangerous situation.”

St. George News was only given a first name for the other man on the scene. St. George Police Public Information Officer Tiffany Atkin said they didn’t have contact information for the other man, only that he was about 50 years old. However, St. George News was contacted Tuesday by Charide Richardson and informed that it was her husband, Chester, who showed up on the scene and immediately jumped in to help the remaining two kids stuck in the river.

Pollock said by the time everyone was out of the water, he noticed his arms were really tired.

“I didn’t realize how much I’d really been struggling. I could see where, if I’d had to go out a couple more times, they (my arms) might’ve given out,” he said. “You just don’t know.”

Pollock said his wife was on shore yelling, and another woman came by with her two kids. The woman was a nurse who was on maternity leave after just having had a baby, he said. She was the one to call 911.

St. George Police and Gold Cross Ambulance responded to the call. Atkin told St. George News that the ages of the kids in the river were 18, 11, 19 and 14.

“We got called after the fact, so everyone was out of the water by the time we got there,” she said.

There were no injuries reported, but Atkin said it’s important to keep in mind that the water is running fast and deep right now in the Virgin River due to snow melt.

“Be safe out there. Use the buddy system. Let people know where you are,” she said.

Pollock said that the kids were very grateful and thanked both men for helping. He said he didn’t consider himself a hero and that anyone in the same situation would do the same thing.

“You don’t think – you act.”

It wasn’t until he started to leave that he realized he had lost his hearing aids.

“But that’s a small price to pay for getting everyone out safely,” he said. “It could’ve been so much worse.”

Updated May 6, 9:20 a.m. to include information about the other man on the scene.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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