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City parks workers recount their rescue of a woman who fell into Lodi Lake

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Posted: Friday, July 6, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 1:33 pm, Sat Jul 7, 2012.

The west winds clipped the water, creating small, choppy waves that slapped against Lodi Lake's shore.

The echo of children's cries radiated from the water where they swam and splashed. An elderly man with a cane walked his small dog along the shoreline a few yards away.

Susan Reyes, a city park maintenance worker, walked over to a space of damp ground next to a dock.

Reyes leaned over and pointed to a spot where less than a week ago, she pulled 43-year-old Lodi resident Rajdeep Kaur from the water.

"Right there," she said quietly. "I was on my stomach, pulling her out. I thought she was dead."

'My mom is in the lake!'

Reyes and her co-worker, Ray Barrera, were emptying trash cans at Lodi Lake on June 29.

The two had started at the west end of the lake and had worked their way over to the trash cans near the dock. They were behind the Discovery Center, a small building that has been used for exhibits and storage through the years.

It was a windy morning. Hardly anyone was at the lake, Barrera said.

Reyes noticed a mother and her three young children playing under the trees a few yards away. A man who visits Lodi Lake every day in his electric-powered wheelchair was sitting near them.

Barrera noticed a young woman walking around near the center in what appeared to be running gear. Apart from them, no one else was around.

They were emptying the last of the trash cans when they heard a scream.

Barrera and Reyes bolted around the building, looking for the voice calling out.

"My mom is in the lake!" they heard someone scream.

Expecting to see someone flailing their arms calling out for assistance, Reyes looked out into the lake. No one was there.

No one appeared to have fallen in. No one saw anything, Reyes later recalled.

Then she looked down. The girl Barrera had noticed not moments ago was panicking and yelling.

Face down, floating with her arms angled, was a woman in black, flowing pants and a white shirt.

It was Rajdeep Kaur, and she was not moving.

Six minutes

Reyes ran to the shoreline and threw herself down onto the ground.

"I didn't want to go into the water because I didn't know how she got in there," Reyes said.

But Kaur bobbed close enough to shore so that Reyes could reach out and touch her. Stretching her fingers, Reyes clasped them around the woman's arm. She pulled her up far enough so Kaur's head cradled in the crook of her left arm.

Barrera grabbed Kaur's teenage daughter and pulled her up towards the parking lot.

No one had seen Kaur fall in. Not the mother with her three small children. Not the man sitting in his wheelchair.

It is still a mystery just how Kaur ended up in Lodi Lake.

"As soon as I saw what was going on, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my phone and called 911," Barrera said. "The woman was already unconscious. I didn't know what was going to happen, but nobody wants to see that."

By then, Reyes had completely pulled Kaur out of the water. Reyes then shouted to Paige Budiselich, who was working as a boat safety attendant that day.

Budiselich had once told Reyes she knew CPR, so Reyes thought she would be the best person to try to revive Kaur.

While the two worked to try and get Kaur to breathe, Barrera was on his cellphone with an emergency dispatcher who said paramedics were on their way. Just hang tight.

They would be there soon, the maintenance workers thought.

But as the paramedics sped towards the lake, a train heading into General Mills blocked their path. One minute ticked by. Then two.

The maintenance workers were alone.

Rather than panic, Reyes helped Budiselich continue to perform CPR while Barrera stayed with Kaur's shocked daughter.

Six minutes after Reyes pulled Kaur from the lake, paramedics and fire crews arrived. They continued to work on Kaur for more than 10 minutes before rushing her to Lodi Memorial Hospital.

That was the last time Reyes and Barrera saw Kaur.

'You just do it'

"The last thing they told us was that she had a heartbeat when they left," Barrera said after Kaur was taken away.

A few hours later, police officers who came to take statements told them that Kaur was alive, but in a coma.

It has been nearly a week since Barrera and Reyes found Kaur floating in the shallow water of Lodi Lake.

Since last Friday, they have heard nothing of her condition, Reyes said, only what they read in the paper.

They want to know she is OK. They want to know she pulled through.

As of press time, Kaur's condition is unknown. The only information the News-Sentinel has received is that she remains at Lodi Memorial Hospital.

"It was so scary. I cried," Reyes said. "You never come here and think there will be a body floating (in the lake)."

Reyes, Barrera and Budiselich were credited by both Lodi police and Lodi firefighters as being key to helping Kaur regain a heartbeat last Friday.

"If they weren't there, things could have gone very bad," said Lodi Fire Department Battalion Chief Ron Penix.

But Barrera and Reyes do not view themselves as heroic.

They were just doing what was right, Barrera said.

"It was something where you don't think about it, you just do it," Barrera said.

However, saving lives is not part of the job description, and Interim Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Jeff Hood knows that.

"I am very proud of them," he said. "They went above and beyond. ..."

Reyes was the only one of the three maintenance workers to head back to Lodi Lake the next day to work.

She went about her business, cleaning and making sure everything was in its place.

But there were times, she said, when she would turn and look out at the lake, marred by the images she had seen the previous day.

She said talking has helped. She has children of her own, and said she cannot imagine what it must be like for a family to have to go through what the Kaur family is currently facing.

"I am here every Saturday by myself," she said. "And there were times when I looked out, hoping nothing was in the water."

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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