A heroic Durham police officer didn’t hesitate Wednesday as he saved two women from an icy creek.
Durham police Cpl. J.J. Barazandeh was prepared for a day working in the snow. He had just stopped by the city garage to have have snow chains installed on his cruiser. But he hadn’t expected his day to take the turn it did – down a slippery embankment and into a frigid creek to save two women whose car ended up in the icy water. Luckily, he also had some help from two good Samaritans.
On Friday, Barazandeh gave his harrowing account that was initiated by a wreck he thought was going to be one of many he’d respond to during the day as up to 10 inches of snow fell on the area. But this one was evolved into a water rescue, something he said he’d never done in his 11 years with the Durham Police Department.
“I just did what any of the officers here would have done,” Barazandeh said. “I was at the city garage when the call came out. I was getting chains on my car. It wasn’t too far from the garage so I just clicked on the call and headed that way. I didn’t realize I was the closest officer and was able to get there first.”
Barazandeh was the first person to arrive on the scene after getting a call about a car running off the road. What he found when he got there was a serious situation. Barazandeh saw two women standing in a frigid creek near Dearborn Drive. Their car was completely submerged in the icy water, he said, and they were clinging to a door jamb in waist deep water. They were waving their arms and calling for help.
“Initially, the information that was given was that they were out of the car and water,” Barazandeh said. “I didn’t realize they were in the water. Once I realized they were in the water, I took off all my gear and helped them.”
Barazandeh, an 11-year veteran with the police department, sprang into action, ripping off his duty belt and plunging into the creek. He waded through the ice-cold water to reach them. As he guided them back to the shore, two people came along and helped them up the steep embankment and back to the road.
“There were screaming and asking for help,” Barazandeh said. “I told the first lady to let go of the car and to hold me. She did and I was able to get her to the bank.”
Barazandeh said the creek bed was especially mucky and soft and that made walking the women to the bank impossible. He got them to float on their stomachs and he pulled them to safety.
Paramedics arrived a short time later and treated the women. Barazandeh estimated that he was in the water for about four minutes.
Barazandeh said he heard the recording of Wednesday’s 911 call for the first time on Friday. He said he could tell how afraid the women were and how serious the situation was.
“I didn’t realize how fearful and panicked they were,” Barazandeh said. “I didn’t realize they had become numb from being in the water. I guess it was more dramatic than I thought.”
After retrieving his duty belt, Barazandeh dried off and returned to duty after taking a hot shower to warm back up. He said it was just another day for him.
“It’s what we do every day,” Barazandeh said. “I didn’t think about. I would have done the same thing for anyone. I was just glad to help.”
Durham police chief C.J. Davis could barely contain her pride as she watched Barazandeh recount his experience Friday.
“It doesn’t surprise me in the least,” Davis said. “I see it on a regular basis. Sometimes these situations don’t make the news but there is a laundry list of times when our officers have done something like this that everyday citizens consider heroic. But they do it every day.”