LONG BEACH, Calif. -- No one knew how troubled Donna Jean Flemming was yesterday as she walked onto the Ocean Boulevard bridge over the Los Angeles River, pushing her baby in a stroller and holding the hand of her 3-year-old son.
It was her abusive husband's 37th birthday. Recently, she had told a friend that she was pregnant.
Suddenly, in the middle of the bridge, witnesses said, she picked up the stroller, baby and all, and tossed it over the side into the churning river, about 50 feet below. She then threw the older boy into the chilly water.
Then, perhaps as an afterthought, she jumped in herself.
A few horrified witnesses notified authorities.
Police officer Michael Erdelji heard the emergency call. He looked into the river and saw three heads bobbing in the water, which is about 7 feet deep. He stripped off his shoes, belt and shirt and dove in.
"I was just trying to save the kids' life," he said. "That was my main concern."
About the same time, officer Robert Gonzales drove onto the bridge and saw Ms. Flemming screaming in the water below, "My kids! My Kids!" He, too, dove in.
The two officers reached the people in the water just as a lifeguard rescue boat arrived.
"I looked over and the babies were just floating and the mom was there. Then, we started yelling, 'Pick them up! Pick them up!' because they were just submerged in all that water," said Francine McCloskey, who watched in horror.
From Catalina Landing, paramedics rushed the three to St. Mary Medical Center.
Craig Alan Flemming, who would have been 2 on April 30, died. The older boy, Michael Robert Flemming Jr., was listed in critical condition, suffering from hypothermia and fluid in his lungs.
Dr. Miles Shaw, the attending physician, said the next 24 hours are critical, but he said he thought Michael's chances of survival are good.
Dr. Shaw said Donna Flemming, who was also at the emergency room, acknowledged throwing the children off the bridge and then jumping in herself. She did not say if she was trying to kill herself, Dr. Shaw said.
Dr. Shaw said he was told that she would be taken to USC Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation. Instead, Donna Flemming walked out in handcuffs, surrounded by police.
A young woman bystander screamed at her: "How could you kill sweet babies?"
Donna Fleming has been charged with murder and attempted murder and held without bail.