The dramatic water rescue of a 12-year-old girl and her father who were minutes from drowning after their truck sunk in a river was captured on officer body camera footage, drawing praise and reactions from the department and community.
Officer Edward Butterworth of Norristown, Pennsylvania, himself a father of two, immediately jumped into action to save the pair after coming to their aid around 2 p.m. on Labor Day.
Officer Matthew Walsh, who was patrolling the park near the Schuylkill River at the time, described the scene.
“Officer in the water trying to get this female who can’t swim. It’s all right, hang in there, honey,” Walsh said as he witnessed Butterworth’s heroic act.
As seen on body camera footage, the young girl was initially in the bed of a truck, which had somehow accelerated off the boat ramp and into the water, leaving her in a state of panic.
“The truck was sinking rather quickly. We could see it fill up with water. We tried to buy time because we didn’t have much,” Walsh explained to WPVI News.
After plunging into the river, the father–daughter duo found themselves about 50 to 60 feet from the boat ramp in the middle of the river and caught in a swift current.
Butterworth drew on his police training and swimming abilities to make the save, but later revealed that he had never encountered such a rescue situation before.
Upon reaching the submerged truck, he faced the challenge of locating the father, who was also briefly submerged underwater as he attempted to rescue his daughter.
“I was calmly screaming at her, ‘Where is he?’ He pops up, so she was holding him down so she can breathe, which is normal for anyone who is panicking,” Butterworth recalled.
In the midst of this life-threatening situation, Butterworth focused on calming down the girl and ensuring both their heads remained above water. He then pulled them toward the shore while treading water and battling fatigue. Despite the physical strain, he was determined to save their lives.
Within just six minutes, Butterworth successfully rescued both individuals, and neither suffered any injuries. The Norristown community has since hailed him as a hero, though he humbly insisted that he doesn’t seek praise.
“I’m not a guy to get a pat on the back. You do this job; obviously, everyone wants to help everyone. It’s humbling,” Butterworth said.
His colleagues, however, were deeply impressed by his actions.
Acting Chief Michael Bishop commended Butterworth and the entire police force.
“We swear to uphold the lives and the welfare of people in this community, and that’s the thing that keeps driving us. That’s what drove this gentleman for his heroic deed,” Bishop told CBS News.
“Twenty-three years almost here in this department, they never stop making me proud,” he added.
Butterworth will soon celebrate his 15th anniversary with the Norristown Police Department, marking a career filled with memorable acts. Looking back on this incident, he expressed gratitude for the happy ending.
“It’s a child, a kid,” he said. “Her dad gets to tuck her in now. She’s safe and that’s a good thing.”
Looking ahead, local officials are considering the addition of flotation devices to patrol vehicles to enhance their ability to respond swiftly and effectively to water-related emergencies, potentially saving more lives in the future. Bishop also said he would consider implementing water training exercises for the department.