Mesa hero cops who saved 12-year-old swept down raging canal share story

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
A boy is OK after being carried through a flooded canal in Mesa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A boy is OK after being carried through a flooded canal in Mesa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Emergency responders set up perimeters at several locations, but the boy was able to get out of the water on his own. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Emergency responders set up perimeters at several locations, but the boy was able to get out of the water on his own. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Two Mesa police officers who helped save a 12-year-old boy being swept away in a raging canal described the rescue as a well-coordinated effort that had the best outcome possible. 

"This could have turned out very tragically for that young man and his family," Officer Jeff Covington, the first officer to help carry the boy to safety, said. "If you look at all the parts in play it all adds up to him being saved and coming out alive."

The 12-year-old ended up in a canal in Mesa Monday, after the morning monsoon storm. The water was rushing and the boy was being swept downstream. A passerby heard the screams, realized what was happening and called 911. 

[ORIGINAL STORY: Boy swept by rainwater after falling into canal]

"It’s definitely something that you don’t expect every day, but at the same time you always anticipate that that call is going to come out," Officer Robert Ravago, who responded to the call, explained.

When the officers arrived, the boy had somehow made it out of the canal and onto a river bottom-like area along the fence where the water was still threatening.

"When I first spotted him he was … luckily it was kind of a sigh of relief because he was standing against a chain linked fence," Covington said. "He’s there but we can’t get to him. You’ve got an 8- or 10-foot chain linked fence with barbed wire on top. It was severely muddy. Units are stuck, ambulances were stuck trying to get to him."

While Covington stripped off his ballistic vest and equipment, Ravago ran downstream to try to get ahead of the boy.

"Officer Covington, right here, he told me, 'If you’re going to be near the canal start stripping down some gear,'" Ravago said. "So, the moment he said that, I was starting to take the vest off because I was getting ready to further down west. If I had saw [sic] him, I was going to have to jump in for him, too. I was leap frogging across all the other officers to see if … I wanted to be the last barricade if he made it to me."

Covington said he knew every second counted. He said he ran about 50 yards to a place where he could get over a gate in the fence. He then got to the boy and helped him over.

Covington said he could see the boy's feet were cut and that it was painful for him to walk. He lifted the boy over his shoulder and started trekking through the mud toward safety.

Ravago said he saw his fellow officer and knew he needed to get to him to help.

"I could see that he’s carrying him a long way," Ravago said. "It’s muddy. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially once we’ve already had an adrenaline rush. I was already stripped down, so, I said, 'Let me make it through there.' So I crawled under some barbed wire fence and started making my way towards Jeff to assist him."

Covington said he was glad to see Ravago because the trek was exhausting. Both men said they found the boy to be in good spirits and toughing out the situation pretty well.

The officers said the passerby who called 911 is really the one who helped save the boy’s life, but they believe they had a part in things ending as they did.

"If I had to see this little boy go by, and it was too late for me to reach him, that’s hard to imagine," said Ravago.

"We were prepared 100 percent to save that child’s life and do what we needed to do, even at a danger to ourselves," said Covington.


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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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