The Clanton family, including, from left in the top row, Shad, Jon, Steve and Yvonne. Pictured in the bottom row, from left, are Sarah, Sam and Selah. (family photo)
Zephyrhills, Florida - Yvonne Clanton changes her Facebook cover photo to one of her 8-year-old son Sam and 7-year-old daughter Selah. Both children are adopted, both have special needs and both nearly drowned in the Erie Canal Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm thinking about you, praying for you," says Larry Chauncey, one of Clanton's neighbors. Larry lives across the street from Grace Church of Zephyrhills, where Jon Clanton is a pastor. It is also where he and his wife, their son and their four adopted children live.
The Clantons left their church and home and traveled to New York to seek medical attention for some of their children with special needs.
Rochester Police say while taking a walk along the Erie Canal with Sam and Selah in the stroller, Jon Clanton stopped to check the time on his cell phone. That's when the stroller rolled away into the water. Rescue crews estimate the children fell into water that's eight to 10 feet deep.
A bicyclist riding by saw John struggling in the water to save his children. Unable to swim, the man on the bike rides over to a group of first-year medical students having a picnic for help.
Two of the students jumped in to help John rescue the children and a third student stayed on shore to help pull them out.
"I think they are heroes. What can you say? That's heroes for you," says Larry.
Sam was pulled out safely, but Selah is currently in guarded condition at a Rochester hospital. In her blog, Yvonne asks the community for prayers. She writes "We love her so much and have loved being her parents. We are asking God for mercy!"
Larry says, "They are really good, really nice people. They've got big hearts. It's awful this happened, after all they been through to get girls here."
Three months ago, the Clantons arrived in Tampa with their newly adopted daughters Selah and Sarah. Chauncey says the family spent three months in the Ukraine trying to finalize their adoption.
Larry says, "When they got back, everyone was so thrilled to have them. Now this happens."
In a written statement, the Clantons thank the police, emergency crews and rescuers.