Stranger jumps into NH pond to rescue 4-year-old

Stranger jumps into NH pond to rescue 4-year-old

DOVER, N.H. — A fun fall afternoon visiting a farm nearly turned tragic for a young New Hampshire boy, but a complete stranger saved his life.

Like any 4-year-old, Owen Vacca is curious. He loves the water and being outdoors.

“It’s a fun place Owen likes to go to and I said, hey let’s do this. It’s a really nice day,” said Mandy Vacca, Owen’s mother.

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That really nice day playing and enjoying Tendercrop Farm in Dover, New Hampshire last Saturday took a treacherous turn for the Vacca’s.

“He ran full speed like he was going to walk across the water and, of course, when he hit the water he took a nose dive and kind of skipped and fell in,” Vacca said.

Owen got ahead of his mother and ran into an algae-covered pond. She said Owen likely believed it was a green mat, like one he was on in the water over the summer. Dave Peterson, complete stranger, was with his family nearby enjoying the farm. He saw Owen go in and he never hesitated. Peterson jumped into rescue the little boy.

“I don’t remember making a conscious decision. I heard a scream and a splash and as soon as I realized there was somebody in the water I just ran towards him. Instincts took over and I wanted to get there as fast as I could,” Peterson said.

Vacca said she is so grateful for Peterson being in the right place at the right time.

“You like to think anybody would do that, but I don’t think they would. I think they would be like okay is anyone else going to help this kid or where’s this kid’s mom? I don’t know. You like to think the best of people but I’m just glad Dave was that guy,” she said.

Peterson said he could see Owen was in over his head.

“I know the slope of the pond was dropping off quite quickly because I had slipped when I had grabbed him. For a moment I thought I might go under as well,” Peterson said.

Vacca said Owen has autism. According to Austim Speaks drowning is the leading cause of death among people with autism.

“It doesn’t matter that my son has autism this could’ve happened to any child, honestly, but that statistic is always in my head,” she said.

Vacca said Owen did not need medical attention. He was shaken, but otherwise fine. She said she never got Peterson’s name in all the confusion. She eventually tracked him down after sharing her story on Facebook. A friend of a friend that knows the Peterson family saw it and connected them. The two families plan to meet-up in person soon.