It was a hot summer day, and he was soaking up the sun. The water against his skin felt amazing too. This was the first time he and his family had come to Windsor Lake. But as he walked deeper into the water, he felt something touch his leg. He thought it was algae or a water plant, so he didn’t really give it a second thought. Then, he noticed something surfacing from the water. It was a tiny human foot, and he leapt into action.
Angelo Mondragon from Fort Collins, Colorado, is a plumber who works extra hours to ensure his family has everything that they need. But what they desperately needed was a vacation. So, he talked it over with his wife. They considered taking a trip to the countryside. But he had no idea that there were some things he simply couldn’t have planned for on this vacay.
He had done some research on Lake Windsor and fell in love with the beautiful scenery. He was particularly fond of the sunset dipping beyond the horizon. The different hues in the sky made such a spectacular sight that he wanted to enjoy it in person. That’s why he decided to take his family there. Once he got there, one of the first things he did was walk into the lake until he was waist-deep. Then, something happened that messed up his R&R.
Mondragon took his family on a relaxing vacation for the weekend. It was a great way to de-stress from the hectic weekday. So, they drove 25 minutes from their home until they got to Lake Windsor. Once they arrived, they noticed a bunch of people already hiking, swimming, and boating nearby. And they all seemed to be having a lot of fun. So, he parked his car, assuming he would be having a good time too. Then, he noticed one family. He was unaware that these people and that lake would wind up giving him quite a fright.
Emma Hernandez couldn’t go to the lake, but her daughter, Sitlaly, did. Hernandez had a tough day at work, so her family took their daughter to the lake. And they were there that same Sunday that the Mondragon family were there. Sitlaly was awestruck by the beautiful lake. But Sitlaly and Mondragon hadn’t realized that their lives were about to cross.
Colorado can get very hot in the summer. But in July, Fort Collins and the nearby areas reached a high temperature of 87°F. So, everyone decided that the lake would be the perfect venue to cool off. Everyone had the same idea as Mondragon. He had no way of knowing that one of life’s little surprises would end up giving him quite a shock once he was in the water.
All Mondragon wanted to do was feel the cold water of the lake against his skin. So, he walked towards the shore and dipped his toes in the lake. The sensation was so cool that he decided to walk deeper so that his warm, sweaty body could experience the refreshing feeling. But seconds after he went in, he felt the temperature in the lake begin to rise. It was only a matter of time before breathing would become unbearable.
The lake was full of families just like the Mondragon and the Hernandez family. But this didn’t deter anyone from taking advantage of the cool lake. They all figured they obviously came up with a great way to beat the summer heat if this many people were here too. But not everyone got the unpleasant surprise that Mondragon did while he was trying to cool off in the lake.
Mondragon felt like he was in heaven as he stood there, half submerged. But then, things took a horrifying turn for the worst. As he stood there enjoying the cool water, something touched his leg. He didn’t think much of it at first since so many things brushed off against him when the waves hit. But then, the underwater object touched him again with a bit more force. This raised a mental alarm, and then, he noticed something creepy.
He was a bit perplexed at first. Then, he noticed a human foot rising to the water’s surface and he gasped. “It felt like something you normally wouldn’t feel in the water,” Mondragon told USA Today. “I did sort of a back kick to bring up whatever it was. Then I saw the bottom of a baby’s foot float up.” It was the Hernandez’s daughter, Sitlaly.
Mortified, Mondragon watched as Sitlaly’s tiny toes floated to the surface. It took him a couple of seconds to realize what was happening. Once he did, he jumped into action. He had just found Sitlaly, but the 4-year-old's body was seemingly lifeless. He checked to make sure. She was unconscious and needed his help. There was no time to waste.
He grabbed Sitlaly and pulled her out of the lake. Then he shouted for the girl’s family and asked anyone with a phone to dial 9-1-1. "I grabbed her and carried her limp body to the shore," he said. "The girl was already blue. She wasn't breathing." Mondragon’s quick thinking saved Sitlaly’s life. She was flown to the nearest children’s hospital, but her prognosis was unclear.
“I saw just the bottom of her feet and then right then at that moment, that became my child, I reached in, and I pulled her out like I would any of my babies,” Mondragon said. Sitlaly was suffering from hypothermia. Her lungs were full of fluid too. And doctors feared that her brain may have been oxygen-deprived.
Emma Hernandez was stunned when she got word that her daughter’s limp body had been pulled from the lake. She immediately rushed over to be with her daughter. And it’s how she met Sitlaly’s savior. Mondragon’s quick response saved her child’s life. “Her lungs are good, her heartbeat is good. Everything is good,” Hernandez told USA Today after doctors gave Sitlaly a thumbs up on her prognosis.
“If I was not in that right spot at the right time, it could have been a search and rescue mission,” Mondragon told USA Today. “As I told the little girl’s mom when I saw the baby’s toes, that became my baby.” The Hernandez family was fortunate that Mondragon had been in the right place at the right time. But now, both families can appreciate why it’s important to keep an eye on their kids, especially toddlers who love to wander off. This incident prompted Mondragon to work with businesses and resident in the area to collect life vests for kids on beaches and lakes. "The baby was not wearing a life vest," he stated. If Sitlaly had worn one, then her life would have never been in peril.