Hanging on the wall at Officer Andrew Coyle’s home is a plaque that contains a photo of a little boy and and message that has a special place in his heart. It reads:
“To my hero … Thank you for saving my life. You’re the best. Life’s good thanks to you. Love David Gonzalez.”
Just a couple weeks ago, Officer Coyle was spending his birthday at the National Night Out event at Fullerton’s Gilbert Park, when he received a surprise visit from 8-year-old David Gonzalez, whose life he saved five years ago.
David and his family came to thank him one more time, and of course, wish him happy birthday. While they were at it, David and his sister Emily took a photo with Coyle and Officer Tim Haid and his K9 partner Rotar. Officer Haid was also there on scene to help David that day.
“David wouldn’t be there without them,” said his mom Kim Gonzalez. “Every year when the anniversary passes, I think about how grateful I am, and I’m glad they have kept in touch with us. They are all good people.”
She said David is doing well and is now a third-grader at Fern Drive Elementary, and after he saw the police dog that day, he’s pretty much decided that being a K9 officer is what he wants to do.
For Coyle, it’s an anniversary he’ll never forget.
“Everybody always ask me what is the scariest call that I’ve been on,” Coyle said. “I’d rather go on a call with a guy holding a gun than go to those calls where a kid is in trouble. That I actually saved someone is something that will stick with me the rest of my life.”
Coyle and his partner at the time Corp. John Ema responded to a call about a child in the bottom of a pool on July 26, 2009 at around 11 a.m.
When the officers arrived, the father was bringing David, who was 3 at the time, out of the water and trying to do CPR right in the pool. Corp. Ema picked the boy up and carried him to a patio area where the officers began CPR.
“We did that for several minutes but it felt like 30 minutes,” Coyle said. “He spit up water a couple times and gasped for air.”
Right about then the Fire Department showed up and told the officers to keep doing CPR until they could get him intubated. They then placed him in an ambulance and Officer Coyle got in his car and led the emergency vehicle to Anaheim Regional Medical Center.
He said hospital personnel were able to get more water out of his lungs, and he was then transferred to Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where he stayed on breathing machines for a few days.
Young David had some side effects at first.
“He had a little trouble with his balance at first,” Coyle said. “It took a little bit for him to get that back.”
Over the years, the family kept in touch Coyle and the others to thank them for saving young David’s life. They give Coyle gifts for his birthday and they always come in the Fullerton Police headquarters at Christmas to drop off gifts and cards.
So the visit on National Night Out was just one in a long litany of thanks he has received. Coincidentally, Coyle’s birthday is the same as young David’s sister and also on that night, his wife, kids and parents were there so they got to meet all them.
In his police career, Officer Coyle had a second call where he had to save the life of a child.
“Those two are the calls that stick with me,” he said. “I’ve thought about David for along time after and wanting to know if he is going to be OK. Now that I have kids of my own, I’m very cautious around pools and I try to make people aware of how dangerous they can be.”