Officer describes moment that hit home after rescuing autistic boy from Miami River

MIAMI – A Miami police officer shared his heroic efforts with Local 10 News on Friday after saving an autistic 10-year-old boy who fell into the Miami River this week.

The incident happened in the Allapattah neighborhood at around 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Miami police officer Ernie Fernandez told Local 10 that he was distraught after the incident since his 4-year-old son Dillon also has autism.

“It is a big challenge. I go to therapy, my kid goes to therapy, for four hours,” he said.

Local 10 acquired new body camera footage Thursday showing the moments when Fernandez saved the drowning boy.

Authorities told Local 10 that Fernandez was patrolling the area when he saw the child walking along the river. At some point, the child left Fernandez’s sight, and seconds later, he saw the child struggling after falling into the water.

“He (Fernandez) immediately jumps in the river, doesn’t even think about losing his body-worn camera, but it is able to save a child and that’s what it’s all about,” said Miami Police Capt. Freddie Cruz on Thursday.

“As soon as I placed him there, I saw that the child had trouble breathing and that’s when I put my left arm behind his back, gave him a couple of blows to the belly, and water came out of his mouth,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez told Local 10 there was a moment in the rescue that hit home for him.

“I placed him on top of a seat and that’s when he gave me a kiss on my mouth,” he said. “At that point, I knew he was autistic because that’s something my child does. It was a moment of thank you when you do something for them, and my son is also autistic.”

Fernandez said he was grateful to be in the right place at the right time.

“I think about my son, and I think about him and how I was there for him,” he added.

Police told Local 10 News the boy was in good condition, and when his family arrived at the scene, they were in tears and full of gratitude.

About the Authors:

Reporter Rosh Lowe has been covering news for nearly two decades in South Florida. He joined Local 10 in 2021.

Ryan Mackey is a Digital Journalist at WPLG. He was born in Long Island, New York, and has lived in Sunrise, Florida since 1994.