A California dad dived into the frigid East River and rescued his 2-year-old daughter Saturday after she plunged 20 feet from a historic boat docked at the South Street Seaport.
Witnesses heard a splash, then a terrifying scream.
A moment later, the father, David Anderson, was racing down the deck of the four-masted Peking ship, emptying his pockets along the way.
"He jumped in like a scene out of a movie," said Eric Stringer, 34. "He was pulling things out of his pockets as he was running down the steps. He didn't hesitate."
Once he reached the pier, the frantic father flicked off his shoes and bolted over a fence. Witnesses said he then gazed into the water. His daughter, identified by sources as Bridgette Sheriden, was below the surface.
"He jumped in feet first like a pin," said Stringer, a freelance TV producer from Hicksville, L.I. "He went all the way under, and when he came up, he had her in his arms.
"She was motionless, at first. It was a couple of seconds, and then she started crying."
The crowd of onlookers gasped in relief.
A man from France jumped into the water to help drag the father and daughter to safety, cops said.
Bridgette was rushed to Bellevue Hospital in good condition and released a few hours later.
"She was very lucky," a fire official said.
The tot looked to be in good spirits as Anderson, his blond hair still damp, pushed her stroller out of the hospital.
Bridgette was swaddled in a blanket, partially obscuring her ruddy face. Walking beside them were her mother and her older brother.
Family members declined to comment on their frightening ordeal.
But Bridgette's mother said she was grateful for the help of the Frenchman.
"I'd like to offer him my congratulations and best wishes, and I want to talk to him personally," said the woman, who declined to give her name.
The high drama on the low seas unfolded about 4:40 p.m.
Cops say Bridgette had reached the top of the gangplank when she somehow slipped through the railing and fell off.
"The dad turned around and didn't see her," a police source said.
Stringer was eating a pre-circus meal on the pier with his wife and two kids when the calm was splintered by an ominous splashing noise.
Then came the sound of a woman screaming.
"It was piercing," Stringer said.
The dad, in a black polo shirt and shorts, was in the water in seconds.
When he rose from below, he lifted his sandy-haired daughter into the air and rested her on his chest faceup, witnesses said.
"The fact that a girl as young as that fell 20 feet or more into water that was probably in the 40s, and that she was breathing once they got her up, it was really amazing," Stringer said.
Anderson swam on his back to the pier. The Frenchman who jumped in helped secure the girl.
"He was hanging on to the side of the dock with his left hand to keep them from floating away and holding on to them with his right hand," Stringer said.
Several people rushed to the pier to help. The Frenchman lifted the girl into the arms of an onlooker, who himself was being supported by another person.
Anderson appeared to be spent, Stringer said.
Two men showed up with a rope to help drag the exhausted dad onto dry land. Witnesses said the man from France got onto the pier on his own. A few minutes later, he hopped into a cab and took off.
Paramedics arrived just after they all were out of the water.
Stringer said the response from those gathered on the pier typifies the spirit of the city.
"As a New Yorker, it was just a very humane thing to see - how fast everyone raced in to help," he said.
"I don't think anybody was concerned about getting wet or losing something in the water. I think everyone was just concerned with getting that girl out of the wate
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/04/03/2010-04-03_east_river_rescue_tourist_saves_2yrold_daughter_who_fell_off_peking_ship_at_sout.html#ixzz0k8HgFt8n
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