University City teen helps rescue 5-year-old trapped in floodwaters

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 7:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - A video taken from the second floor of an apartment building in University City shows a 15-year-old, John Trotter, trudging through floodwaters.

“The quick thing was to go save the kid because I didn’t want the kid to get hurt,” said Trotter.

It was captured early morning on July 26, during which Trotter’s entire neighborhood and his building became submerged in water during a heavy rainstorm.

As the water continued to rise, he and his mother, Jennifer Thorpe, heard a scream for help from across the street that sent Trotter to action.

“He’s 6′2″, and the water was just high and using not only his swimming skills but his ROTC training,” said Thorpe. “He went to work.”

A 5-year-old boy was trapped in his bedroom in the basement of their neighbors’ home, and the boy’s family could not get him out.

“[I] get the heaviest thing I could find and go over there as fast as I could,” said Trotter.

Trotter used a cast iron skillet, now broken from the impact, to break through the floorboards above the basement where the boy was located.

“And we just kept beating it in until we could get in there,” he said.

His mother added, “He at least broke the whole in the floor before the fire department got here.”

Fire crews arrived just as Trotter opened a pathway for them to get the boy out.

“If he couldn’t swim and, two, he hadn’t thought quick on his feet, who knows what would’ve happened to this little boy,” said Thorpe.

It is a story that quickly touched strangers in the St. Louis Metro.

“You know it really struck me. The selflessness of this young man,” said Ryan Coleman.

Coleman says he wanted to make sure others knew Trotter’s story, so he reached out to his family to help kickstart a GoFundMe on his behalf.

“I was confident we could do something, and something would be better than nothing,” said Coleman. “When you know that people care about the situation you’re in, I think that can go a long way, too.”

“It kind of gave me hope that there were still good people,” said Thorpe.

The money raised will go towards helping Trotter and his mother have the means to find a new home and get back on their feet. Yet, Thorpe also hopes to stay true to her promise and gift her son a car for his 16th birthday. The one he was meant to have was destroyed in the floodwaters.

“He’s turning 16 in January, and I literally put in a whole bunch of work into it for him and now it’s gone, and now I’m kind of back to square one.”

As Trotter and his mother now take life day by day, Trotter vows to never take the love and things he has in his life for granted moving forward.

“Even if you don’t have all the nice cool things, appreciate that, because it’ll be gone. Anything can happen. Blink of an eye [and] it’s gone,” he said.

Trotter says he has not had the chance to see the family and 5-year-old since helping them last week.