Talk about “perfect timing!” Off-duty firefighter, Steve O’Malley, just happened to be enjoying his Saturday afternoon at a South Side Harbor on Lake Michigan when a baby stroller blew into the water, baby still attached!
O’Malley, who had just been promoted to lieutenant after 33 years of service, had planned to spend the day fixing up his boat for his wife’s upcoming birthday. He recalls holding the door open and walking behind a couple with a little boy in a stroller. Just a little while later, he helped save that little boy.
“I was talking on my phone, and I’d stopped to tie my shoes,” O’Malley said. “And then all of a sudden, I heard: ‘Oh my God, my baby, my baby. I looked and the stroller was upside down in the water.”
The little boy’s father had already jumped in the water, and O’Malley would follow just moments after.
“I saw the stroller was sideways in the water, and I didn’t see the baby,” O’Malley said. “I thought, ‘Oh no…you’re not going down – not on my watch.”
But as he got closer, O’Malley noticed the little boy lying face-down in his stroller, toys, bottles and extra clothes floating all around him.
“I thought: ‘Yeah, I’m getting him. No matter what, I’m getting him,” O’Malley said.
And get him he did.
“My strength just kicked in. I grabbed the T-shirt and held the baby and the stroller above the water and I started swimming to the pier,” O’Malley said. “Luckily, the ladder on the pier wasn’t that far away.”
What’s even more amazing is that the little boy didn’t even need emergency services.
“He coughed all this water up and then started crying,” O’Malley said.
Afterwards, the couple felt so thankful for O’Malley’s help that they invited him to spend the rest of the afternoon with them on a cook out and at their boat dock nearby. O’Malley declined, however.
“They’re really nice people,” he said.
Meg Ahlheim, spokeswoman for the Chicago Fire Department said she wasn’t surprised when she heard about Saturday’s rescue.
“It’s classic Steve,” Ahlheim said. “He was swimming with the baby and the stroller over his head. He’s an amazing person.”