Meeting James Ventrillo, the Boy Earl Higgins Rescued in the Los Angeles River
By Nancy J. Rigg
In July, 2010, I had an inspiring, yet slightly bittersweet reunion with James Ventrillo, who was a 10-year old boy when my fiance, Earl Higgins, rescued him in the Los Angeles River on February 17, 1980.
We allowed National Public Radio (NPR) to capture the moment we met at the river.
Show host Madeleine Brand and the producers produced an excellent segment, called, “The River.”
“30 years ago the paths of James Ventrillo and Nancy Rigg literally crossed at the Los Angeles River. Neither would be the same again. It was 1980. Nancy and her fiancé, Earl Higgins, were taking a walk across a footbridge that spanned the river. It had been the first clear day after a series of violent rain storms. The river was high and moving fast – a rare sight in L.A. They stopped to look at the water and saw – to their horror – a young boy had just fallen in. Earl ran to the water’s edge and tried to save him. He did, but was pulled in, too. Earl wasn’t able to save himself. No one else could, either.
“For the next 30 years, Nancy dedicated herself to creating a Swift Water Rescue Program for L.A. and for all of California, a program that trains first responders in river rescue.
“She never knew what happened to the boy, James. In this story, Nancy and James meet for the first time since that fateful day 30 years ago.”
The website includes the complete audio file, as well as several photos.
It was an honor to meet James and find out, after all this time, what actually happened in the water that day so many years ago.
I am preparing a longer report, which I will post soon.
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