Paul Thomas Labella saved two boys from drowning, San Fernando, California, March 12, 2005. Two brothers, ages 11 and 13, entered the water of the Pacoima Wash and were swept away by the very swift current. Police officers responding to predetermined staging locations included Labella, 39, insurance investigator, who was on duty as a volunteer reserve officer. He arrived at the channel at a point about 1.5 miles from where the boys entered the water and shortly saw them approach. Labella threw a flotation device to the boys, but they failed to grasp it. Discarding his radio and weapon, Labella descended the sloped concrete bank of the channel and entered the water, which, although shallow, immediately knocked him from his feet. He caught up to the boys, secured them to his lap, and maintained his hold of them as all three were swept downstream. About three-quarters of a mile from where he had entered the water, Labella secured hold of a concrete projection in the middle of the channel that was the extension of a tunnel wall. Stopping their course at the entrance to the tunnel, Labella stood and, still holding the boys, awaited help. Firefighters responded after several minutes and removed the boys, then Labella, from the channel. Both boys and Labella were taken to the hospital, where the older boy was treated for shoulder pain. He recovered. Labella suffered hypothermia, abrasions, and sprains to both wrists.
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