Man Who Died After Rescuing Boy From Pond Called Hero - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Man Who Died After Rescuing Boy From Pond Called Hero

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More information is coming to light about the man who died after trying to rescue a 5-year-old boy who fell through ice near a southeast Columbus pond.

According to Columbus police, officers and medics responded to a report of a child who broke through the ice and was in the water of a pond near the 4400 block of Lakeside South in at about 5:40 p.m. Thursday.

James Jenkins, 30, became a hero when he jumped into icy water to save the boy.

He was able to reach the child, but both went under water before they reached the shore.

Emergency crews rescued the pair, but Jenkins later died at Grant Medical Center.

PHOTO GALLERY: Images From Scene

The boy was transported to Nationwide Children's Hospital in life-threatening condition.

Jenkins worked at Teleperformance, a call center on the west side of Columbus.

According to witnesses, Jenkins told another man who had also jumped in that he wasn't a very good swimmer, but that didn't stop him.

He said he eventually had to climb out of the pond because the water became too much.

"Finally I told him, 'Man, I can't swim.' And he said, 'I can't swim, too.' So he jumped in again, so … he was heroic and he starts sliding with his stomach trying to get to the boy and he can't swim and I tried to help them and I got halfway, but I couldn't. Some people came in and they gave us some board … but by then, James, he was already with the boy and the boy [started] to sink. James tried to pick him up you know. James put himself down so that the little boy, he can breathe," said Sefe Almedon, a neighbor.

Friday afternoon, NBC4's Mike Bowersock spoke to Jenkins' girlfriend, who said he died as he lived -- trying to make sure everyone else was OK before he thought of himself.

"I am so proud of him. If he was here, I would just give him so much love and let him know I am so proud of him. I'm so proud of him. Yes, I'm super sad that he's gone and that is not going to go away, but I am so proud. I'm proud to know him," said Alana Gamble, Jenkins' girlfriend.

Those who knew Jenkins, who friends called Russell, said they are not surprised he jumped into the pond.

"Anybody that knows him even longer than me will tell you that that was Russell," Gamble said.

"He's the father of my son. He's a very sweet individual. Again, he probably went into that situation thinking of his own kid," said Sherese Gilbert, the mother of Jenkins' child.

Gamble said her daughter fell into the pond last summer and Jenkins went in to get her.

It appears that Jenkins is giving the gift of life in his death. The Franklin County Coroner's Office told NBC4 that Jenkins is a tissue donor.

Three Columbus police officers described what they encountered when they first arrived on scene at the pond.

They said they did not hesitate, but jumped from the patrol cars, stripped off their gunbelts and jumped in.

Officers Christopher Smith Hughes, Logan Ramsier and Christopher Lieb said the cold water immediately took their breath away.

They said they saw Jenkins trying to rescue the boy, but they were unable to get to him to help.

"He pushed the child up, trying to hold the child up. He was doing awesome. He did the best he could to save that kid," Hughes said.



The pond winds all the way through the apartment complex property at Lake Side and Shore Boulevard, and despite the steep three foot drop along the banks, there are  no fences and no signs.

Kimberly Triplett recently moved into an apartment here and says she was immediately struck by the dangers of the pond. "We have so many children out here and they are on and off the bus and have to walk past here every  day," Triplett said. "I would be scared to death if it was my child that was living in this property."

Two years ago a young mother and child died when the car they were in went into the pond.  There have been several other incidents here in recent years.

Given that history Kimberly Triplett  says she is astounded by the absence of safety measures around the pond.  "I just think its inconceivable, it's despicable that the management team and the owners have not done something to prevent this type of thing from happening," Triplett said.

Columbus city officials say the pond is on private property and that, unlike swimming pools, there are no city requirements regarding signs or fencing.  

Shatyra Henderson, who lives here with three children, says she believes parents should take more responsibility. "Parents, educate your children and do not let them out of your sight if they're young enough to not know the dangers of going out there or thinking they can walk across - they shouldn't be out of your sight with all the water around here."

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