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A Frog takes a dive

... and comes up with a lifesaving act.

By Nancy Bartosek

Teamwork. Three of the four members of the firefighting team that saved a young boy this past summer are Frogs: Landon West '92, center, and Lt. Buster Foster and Mike Lachman, who also attended TCU.

Tail lights were all Landon West '92 could see of the car slipping deeper into the black water of Lake Arlington. Suddenly one voice pierced the many yelling at the Fort Worth firefighter and his crew mates.

There's a baby in the car.

Off came the bunker pants and into the water went West and Lt. Buster Foster. The diving gear the team had in the water rescue truck back at the station flashed through West's mind as he gulped air and plunged toward the submerged car.

"The water was so dark and murky," West said. "It was a real scary feeling, but you don't think about it, you just do it."

It took several tries before the two found a way in and discovered the small boy floating unconscious against the roof.

When Foster broke the surface with the child, West rested the two on his arm and swam to shore while Foster gave mouth-to-mouth. About the time they reached water's edge, the 3-year-old coughed and began to cry.

Incredibly, the firefighters should have been back at the station. A false seizure call had brought them to the lake that September evening where hundreds were trying to escape the sultry weather. But those same crowds boxed them in. As they moved slowly through the traffic, they passed the car, which had just slid into the water.

The rescue earned the squad of four, headquartered at the busiest station in town, one of the highest awards given internationally to firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs' Award for Valor, and a nomination for a Congressional Medal of Valor, an honor still under consideration by the Senate.

"It's hard for us to take the credit when anyone at this station, or any other firefighter, would have done the same thing," West said. "The main thing is that boy has another day on earth regardless of who did it."

West earned a degree in English and business before he realized a tie and a desk weren't for him. Shortly after graduation he was accepted into the Fort Worth Fire Department training program.

"Sometimes we help save a life, but sometimes we just unlock a car," he said. "But whatever it is, when we're there and can help, well, that makes you feel good."