Jon Clanton of Zephyrhills was pushing a double stroller that held his two young children, 8-year-olds Sam and Saleh. They were walking along the Erie Canal path, when the stroller got away from Clanton, went over a steep embankment and into the water near Kendrick Road, according to Rochester Police.
At least one of the children suffered "very serious" injuries, officers said. Clanton, 48, and his children were all taken to Strong Memorial Hospital.
A passerby witnessed the incident and called 911 at about 12:30 p.m. A cyclist also came upon the scene and went to the Roundhouse Shelter at nearby Genesee Valley Park for help. The cyclist quickly found several University of Rochester medical students and Dr. David Lambert, UR's senior associate dean of medical education, officers said.
Three of the students identified themselves as lifeguards and ran with Lambert to the water in search of Clanton and his children.
Two of the students, Bridget Hughes, 22, of Williamsville and Lindsay Wahl, 23, of Pittsford jumped into the water and swam to the stroller. Wahl swam with the boy and pulled him to an area where others could lift him out of the water. Hughes and the father stayed with the stroller and had difficulty getting the young girl free and -- with Wahl's help -- kept it afloat. Lambert and and the third student, Sarah Nevarez, 25, of Pittsford stayed on the path and helped pull children out.
The students and Lambert declined to be interviewed following the incident. University spokesman Michael Wentzel said the students acted heroically.
"The way it was described to me," he said. "Is that they didn't hesitate."
Collins said Clanton and his family had visited someone at the Ronald McDonald House earlier Wednesday and went for a walk along the canal path. He said it was not clear how long the children were in the water or underwater.
Dozens of Rochester police officers, firefighters and Rural/Metro employees were all at the scene. Among those investigating was a team from the department's homicide investigation unit. Police would not elaborate on the team's role in the investigation, but said it was standard procedure for an incident of this nature.
Officers are investigating and are interviewing witnesses at the scene.
A website devoted to Clanton's church, Grace Church of Zephyrhills, said he is senior chaplain at Zephryhills Correctional and has been pastor since January 2006.