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2012-02-22 / Front Page

Police Dispatcher and Putnam Valley Teen Save a Life

By ERIC GROSS

Dispatcher Robert Lewandowski, Shannon Bell and her 13-year-old son Kian give a thumbs-up outside Carmel PD headquarters this week 24 hours after the dramatic rescue of a two-year-old toddler.ERIC GROSSDispatcher Robert Lewandowski, Shannon Bell and her 13-year-old son Kian give a thumbs-up outside Carmel PD headquarters this week 24 hours after the dramatic rescue of a two-year-old toddler.ERIC GROSSCarmel Police Dispatcher Robert Lewandowski doesn’t consider himself a hero.

But Police Chief Michael Johnson said his employee's heroics probably saved the life of a two-year-old toddler who managed to walk out of his home clad only in diapers headed towards a busy thoroughfare.

The bizarre story unfolded Wednesday afternoon when members of a Cub Scout pack visited the police station in Mahopac for a tour. The problem: Scouts and their leaders arrived at the stationhouse 24 hours too early.

Johnson said the mistake was a blessing in disguise.

Shortly after realizing the error, as the disappointed scouts were about to depart, Kian Bell, a 13-year-old from Lake Peekskill who was accompanying his brother on the tour, looked out the window at the police station and saw the toddler walking down Front Street across from the police station.

The 7th grader at Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Shrub Oak asked his mom who was chaperoning the visit: “Is that a baby?”

Shannon Bell couldn't believe her eyes and notified Lewandowski, who was manning the communications desk at the police station.

On Thursday during an impromptu news conference, Lewandowski said “my fatherly instinct kicked in (Lewandowski and his wife have been blessed with three daughters, all under the age of 10). I jumped from my desk and looked out the door. There was this little diaper-clad toddler headed towards Croton Falls Road. I ran through the parking lot and down a steep incline. As I am running, I observed three cars coming along and waved at them to slow down. My fear was that the baby was going to be hit. As I jumped in front of the cars, I swooped the baby up and luckily both the baby and I escaped being struck.”

Lewandowski, who is trained to save lives on the phone said he didn't think about his own safety at all: “I had to get that kid out of harm’s way. The scene was surreal.”

After rescuing the child, Lewandowski, Officer James Evans and Sgt. Craig D'Andrea wrapped the little boy in a blanket and brought the toddler back to his home on Front Street where his screaming mother was waiting.

Johnson said the unidentified woman had been caring for two other children in a back bedroom when the two-year-old managed to open a front door and exit the residence, advising his grandfather who happened to arrive at the same time: “See you pea-pa!”

The chief said: “The kid was on a mission.”

Police determined there was no neglect on the part of the mother and no charges were filed.

We stopped at the residence on Front Street Thursday afternoon and a woman answered the door advising that the mother was not at home but that the baby and his mom were "doing fine."

Shannon Bell said the incident kept on reverberating in her mind: “You hear about these things all the time but I never ever dreamed that I would be part of such an incident. The baby could have walked into the woods and disappeared or God forbid been hit by a car. This was a miracle. Thank goodness Mr. Lewandowski reacted the way he did.”

 

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