Published May 21, 2012
A New Jersey dad got the scare of his life when his 5-year-old son almost ran off a steep embankment, and though the man saved the boy from falling, he couldn't stop his Jeep from going over the precipice and into a river below.
The reward for his ordeal? Two traffic tickets from local police.
Frank Roder, a construction worker from the town of Winfield Park, had taken his son, Aidan, down to the Rahway River to feed ducks Thursday. But when he stopped briefly before settling on a parking space, the impatient boy jumped out and took off -- straight toward a ledge 35 feet above the river, Roder recalled.
"He hopped out, and I thought that was OK, I was just going to park," Roder, 38, said, but "he just took off, made a beeline for the edge."
The panic-stricken father jumped out of the cab of his 2006 Jeep Commander and raced after the errant boy, catching him just feet from the edge.
That's when Aidan, eyes as big as saucers, looked behind Roder and said, "Um, Daddy ..."
Roder turned in time to see the Jeep nosedive down the embankment and land in the muddy water.
Roder hugged the boy and waited as Union County police converged on the scene over the next few hours. A crane pulled the Jeep out, and amazingly, it started right up, though Roder is pretty sure his insurance company will count it as totaled.
He was counting his blessings when a young cop approached him and handed him two tickets. One was for failure to produce the insurance card, which was somewhere in the waterlogged cab. The other was for failing to use his emergency brake.
"I couldn't believe it," Roder said. "He said, 'If you would have taken the five seconds to apply the brake, this never would have happened!'
"I say, 'Really? And if I did and my boy stepped over the edge and fell instead of the Jeep, then were would I be?' He says, 'Jail, for child endangerment.'"
Too awful to contemplate is the fact the Roder almost took his six-week-old son Joel along for the ride.
"At the last minute, I told my wife to take him," Roder said. "I can't even think about that."
Union County Police Chief Daniel Vaniska told FoxNews.com that his officers have some discretion about when and when not to write a ticket. But he said he just didn't have enough information to second-guess what this officer did.
"It probably could have gone either way," Vaniska said. "I can't comment on the discretionary practices of an officer, but certainly, the fellow will have an opportunity to tell his story in court."
Municipal Court is where Roder might get some sympathy -- and maybe forbearance on those tickets, which are for $50 and $60. His date is May 30.
"I don't care, I'll pay it," Roder said. "It's just the principle. When something like that happens so fast, I could give a rat's a-- about the car."