It was just a regular Monday morning when Heather Erhard put on her running shoes and took off on her morning run in the Crossroads neighborhood. However it turned out to be anything but normal as unbeknownst to her she would be saving someone’s life on the morning of July 27.
The preschool teacher and mother of two was on her normal morning run when she saw someone bobbing in the water in the canal, with just the head above water. As she approached the area she saw people on both sides of the canal watching a woman in the water. Erhard took off her headphones and got closer to investigate the situation as she wasn’t sure if someone was deliberately swimming in the canal or if they were in distress.
“I realized that it wasn’t someone randomly going for a swim in the canal,” expressed Erhard. “I quickly realized it wasn’t distress. She was trying to hurt herself. I don’t know. I just took off my shoes and jumped in. I didn’t think about it. She needed to get to the side so I jumped in.”
The people watching on both sides did not speak English but afterward the couple that was there thanked her and told her that they don’t know how to swim.
“I didn’t think,” she stated with a tremble in her voice. “I just saw somebody that needed some attention and I did what I had to do. It was difficult because she was flailing around. So I did have a quick moment where I said Heather you have to make sure that she doesn’t take you down.”
The canal on Morrill Road is normally inhabited by ducks. For about the past 15 years Erhard has lived in the Crossroads development and is currently a preschool teacher at Modesto Covenant Church Lighthouse Preschool.
“I prayed over her,” stated Erhard with tears in her eyes. “She kept saying in Spanish, she was shouting about God and that God is coming and I said no honey it is not time. It is not time. So I prayed over her and prayed for my strength at that moment. I was able to get her to the edge and I slowly got my grip on the edge of the canal so I didn’t fall in. I pulled her as much as I possibly could with my strength because that edge of the canal is particularly steep. Thank goodness the Sheriff (RPS Sgt. Lloyd MacKinnon) came and he was able to help me get her all the way up.”
Riverbank Police Services Sgt. Lloyd MacKinnon was the first on scene and quickly assisted Erhard in pulling the woman completely out of the canal. The courageous actions by the Good Samaritan led MacKinnon to make Erhard an honorary member of the Dive Team.
“It made me laugh,” Erhard added about becoming an honorary member of the dive team. “It was very kind of him. Then he told my girls that had come out to see what was happening that I was a hero. It was very nice of him to do that although I don’t think of myself as that. I just did what I was supposed to do.”
After everyone was safely out of the canal the mother of the woman in the water was consoling her and Erhard went quickly over to the children that were on the scene to comfort them as she explained the whole situation was very traumatic to watch especially for kids.
“It just hurt my heart so I went over to talk to them and distract them because no children should have to see that at that age,” she said. “I am just a little shaky. I kind of understand because it is so much stress on everybody right now. Life is turned upside down. I am not sure what is happening in that girl’s life but I think everybody can kind of in some way or another understand that we are overwhelmed with stress right now.”
A normal morning run that turned into a water rescue in times where there is so much chaos is a great reminder that there are good people out there – Good Samaritans and honorary dive team members among them.