Hat tip: Ernie Coffman
FARMERSVILLE -- Eight-year-old Robert Vasquez first saw the small body floating face up in Deep Creek.
"It's a doll," he called out.
"It's not a doll. It's a girl!" yelled his brother Victor Vasquez Jr., 12. The eighth-grader, his brother and their two friends on Wednesday recalled their dramatic rescue of a 3-year-old only two days earlier.
The boys had been hanging out at the river, taking a dip on a hot summer day, and were back on the bank looking for fish when they spotted the body coming downstream.
Victor said he jumped into the fast-moving irrigation water and grabbed the girl's leg, but it slipped out of his hands.
"Run and get her," Victor called to Gilbert Hogan, 17, a Farmersville High senior. Gilbert ran 100 feet along the creek bank, ducked under the willow branches, rushed into the river and grabbed the floating body with both hands.
"She was unconscious," Gilbert said. "She was pale and purple. I thought, 'This girl is going to die.' "
It was a fluke that the four youngsters were even next to the creek at 5:30 p.m. The two Vasquez brothers had already been told to stop playing in the river and come home but had gotten a reprieve from their father.
Half a mile upstream, 3-year-old Alice Falk had fallen into Deep Creek behind some run-down apartment buildings that lack a fence. The girl's mother was frantically looking for her lost toddler, Farmersville police said later.
Gilbert held the unconscious child to his shoulder and chest, then ran to the nearby Vasquez home and handed the limp body to Victor Vasquez Sr., 38, an auto mechanic.
Vasquez pressed on the girl's chest to administer CPR and -- to everyone's surprise -- she started throwing up and gasping for air.
A crowd gathered, someone called 911 and police and firefighters arrived. Two minutes later from elsewhere in Farmersville, someone called police to report a missing toddler. Police quickly connected the incidents.
An ambulance rushed Alice to Kaweah Delta Medical Center. She was released late Tuesday and appears to have made a full recovery.
"If you looked at her today, you would hardly believe that two days ago she'd been floating down a canal," Farmersville Police Chief Mario Krstic said.
The name of the girl and her mother were not made public, but word quickly spread through the small town.
Wednesday afternoon, two women went to the apartment where the girl and her mother live and attacked the mother to get "maybe a little street justice," Krstic said. The suspects have been identified and arrests are expected, he said Wednesday. The girl's family members declined to comment Wednesday.
Krstic said the mother does not appear to be guilty of child endangerment.
"We're fairly well satisfied it was an accident and it was just a couple of minutes" that the mother lost track of her child, Krstic said.
No fence is required to separate the apartment from the creek, and the city's waterways plan envisions a future of creek banks that are open and pedestrian friendly with fewer fences, he said.
It's a temptation for people looking for relief from the summer heat, but irrigation canals such as Deep Creek are not maintained for recreation and can be dangerous, said Mark Larsen, general manager of Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, which controls the creek's irrigation flows. The creek is a natural waterway that has been channeled through Farmersville like a canal.
Meanwhile, the boys are being hailed as heroes. The police chief said he would recommend to the council that they be formally and publicly recognized.
Vasquez said he took the boys -- including George Castillo, 13, an eighth-grader at Farmersville Junior High who was at the creek with the others -- to a local pizza restaurant as a reward on the night of the rescue.
"It was an act of God," Vasquez said. "I think a little angel was right next to her and the kids were able to see her."