Rochester, N.Y. – Two Rochester Police officers who helped pull two children and their father from the Erie Canal at Genesee Valley Park talked Thursday morning about their role in the rescue.
Police said on Wednesday a family from Florida was visiting the Ronald McDonald House and the father, Jon Clanton, took his two children for a stroll by the water.
Jon Clanton is the Pastor of Grace Church of Zephyrhills in Zephyrhills, Florida. Clanton's children, Sam Clanton, 8, and Selah Clanton, 8, were in the stroller at the time.
Pastor Tony Goddard of the Christian Community Church in East Williamson said that Jon Clanton had both children strapped into a double stroller on the canal path, and he let go for a moment and looked away. In that time, the stroller got away from him and rolled into the canal, Goddard said. According to Goddard, Clanton jumped in after the stroller, and tried to keep it above water until rescuers arrived.
Thursday morning, Rochester Police Officers Paul Dondorfer and Adam Alliet talked about how they came upon the scene. They say they were picking up pizza and wings at a nearby restaurant when they heard the call.
They helped get Sam Clanton out of the water first.
“When we realized that that child was not breathing, the doctor that was on scene gave the first two breaths then I took over from there,” said Officer Paul Dondorfer. “Officer Alliet and the rest of the people that ended up running down the way of the canal, trying to find the other victims that were still in the water.”
Officer Alliet says he went upstream looking for the other victims. He found Jon Clanton treading water and holding the stroller with Selah in it.
“At that point he seemed fairly exhausted,” said Officer Alliet. “He was not doing very much. He was doing all he could to keep the baby’s head above water.”
Alliet lowered himself down into the canal, tied a rope to the stroller and firefighters were able to pull the stroller out.
As of Thursday night, Sam was upgraded to satisfactory condition at Strong Memorial Hospital. Saleh remains in guarded condition.
The father was also pulled from the water.
He was treated and released from the hospital.