COLUMBUS, Ohio | A Columbus man, and former Gary resident, who died trying to save a little boy from drowning is being hailed as a hero who may have been thinking of his own young son when he sprang into action.
James Jenkins, who lived in Gary as a youngster, was on his way home with his girlfriend on Thursday evening when he saw a 5-year-old boy struggling in a pond.
Witnesses say the 30-year-old jumped out of the car, dove into the pond and was trying to keep the boy's head above water. But the two of them went under amid freezing temperatures.
The Columbus Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/V4ZW0t) that four police and firemen who arrived soon after also jumped in but weren't able to find the pair.
Divers pulled them both from the water about an hour later. Jenkins died and the boy, whose name has not been released, was in life-threatening condition Friday night at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Jenkins' father, Walter Jenkins of Gary, said Friday that the whole family is in mourning but is proud of James, whom they called by his middle name, Russell.
"There's still some good people out there that care," he said. "There's still some people out there that will lay their life down for another."
Russell had a son, Kameron, who is the same age as the boy in the water.
"It probably went through his head, 'What if that was my son?'" said Russell's older brother, Aaron Jenkins.
Aaron Jenkins said he and his brother grew up in Gary, where James attended Nobel and Marquette elementary schools.
Their father and grandmother, Cora Harris, still live in Gary, as do numerous cousins, Aaron Jenkins said.
Family members say that Jenkins was a strong swimmer and guessed that probably gave him the confidence to jump in, but said he might not have thought about how cold the water was.
"It was more of a shock that he wasn't able to make it out," Walter Jenkins said.
Logan Ramsier, one of the three Columbus police officers who tore off their gun belts before swimming in the water on Thursday, called Jenkins a hero.
"He did something unbelievable," he said.