Man Dining at Wharf Leaps Into Frigid Water to Rescue Boy

Juan Gonzalez jumped into the frigid water without a second thought

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A man dining out at the Wharf Saturday night is being credited with saving a boy's life after the child fell into the Washington Channel.

As Juan Gonzalez was having dinner with his girlfriend and daughter, he realized something was wrong.

"We started hearing screams. There was a big group of people yelling and crying, and just, something had happened," he said.

A young boy had fallen into the channel at the Southwest Waterfront, near where they were eating. Gonzalez said he bolted over to help.

“I saw the kid in the water and I was definitely like, it’s cold, something has to happen now,” he said. “And within seconds, I was jumping.” 

Gonzalez swam right to the boy, who was clinging to the side and crying.

"I kept telling him, 'It's just a swim, it's kind of cold but you're going to make it. Just hold tight,'" he said. "He was just calling for his mom, very scared of course. It was a big drop."

Gonzalez said he led the little boy to a ladder along the side wall, where they were both able to climb out as medics and others stood by ready to help.

"Everybody joined in. I think somebody that was working at the restaurant came out to help. A few folks that work for the Wharf came to help. Of course, eventually the firefighters and the medics," Gonzalez said. "So it was a nice group effort. Everybody was taking care of the kid as soon as he got out."

The boy was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

D.C. fire officials said they got there quickly, but if immediate action had not been taken, this story could have had a tragic ending. 

Gonzalez said it happened so quickly that the moment is kind of a blur, but his girlfriend and daughter witnessed him in action. They called him a hero and said the moment was unexpected.

The Wharf has not responded to a request for comment, and it's not clear how the boy ended up in the water.

“We’re very happy that it's over and that he's OK and now hopefully life keeps changing and getting better," Gonzalez said.

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