Officer, firefighter hailed as heroes in pond rescue

March 31, 2010 4:40:02 AM PDT
A suburban police officer and firefighter were praised as heroes Tuesday after risking their own lives to save a couple whose car crashed into a suburban pond.

Neither of them has had any dive rescue training, but both say the adrenaline kicked in.

"I didn't think about what I was doing. I just knew what I had to do and did it," said Officer Jennifer Muska, Westmont Police.

The water was 40 degrees, air temperature 32 as Officer Muska arrived on the scene, first to respond to a car submerged in a retention pond at 63rd and Richmond Streets Monday night.

Muska, who has never even learned how to swim, says she couldn't see the car but she could see two people floating and went right in to rescue 67-year-old LeRoy Hurlburt.

"His arms briefly were moving sporadically, his eyes were open, he was on his back kind just kind of floating there," said Muska.

After pulling Mr. Hurlburt to safety, Muska says she went back in, hoping to find his wife, 70-year-old Perla Hurlburt, the passenger in a 1992 Toyota Tercel. But she says it got too deep and too cold, so she turned back.

That's when 20-year-old Westmont firefighter Brendan Sullivan arrived wearing a wetsuit.

"About 90 feet out, I was feeling around and came across the wife, I was feeling around and I felt her hair. And I turned her over, she was face down in the water, grabbed her under the arms and had them drag me to shore," said Brendan Sullivan, Westmont firefighter.

A bit uncomfortable with the hero title, Sullivan and Muska say it was all in a day's work.

"I think it's great to be recognized for jobs that police officers and firefighters do everyday," said Muska.

LeRoy Hurlburt is in fair condition. His wife, Perla, remains critical. Firefighters say she was face down in the frigid waters for at least 10 minutes.

Westmont's police chief says Officer Muska will be nominated for a lifesaving award.