Lifeguards credited with saving 5-year-old in Danville
DANVILLE — It was something lifeguard Montana Schnelle spent hours training for, but never thought she'd have to do — save someone from drowning.
But city officials said last week, Schnelle and five other young lifeguards at the Danville Municipal Pool saved the life of a 5-year-old boy, who had sunk to the bottom of the pool and stopped breathing.
"We're all trained and certified in CPR, AED, first aid and lifeguarding. And on that day, their training kicked in, and they did exactly what they were supposed to do," said Danville recreation and pool manager Cindy Parson, who also was involved in the rescue. It was the first such incident to happen at the city-run pool in a decade.
"They did a wonderful job," Parson said of the teenage guards, who also included Myron Williams, Shelby Seaman, Katie Goetzelman, Chris Bryant and Caleb Finley.
The boy, who was not identified, was enrolled in a summer program at the Boys & Girls Club of Danville, which, along with the pool, is located in Garfield Park. On the afternoon of June 12, he had come for a swim with other club members.
At 1:22 p.m., one of the guards noticed a shadow on one of the black racing lines on the bottom of the pool in a 4- to 4 1/2-foot-deep area, Parson said.
"When we brought him out of the water, he was unresponsive," Parson said, adding the boy had a faint pulse. The guards laid him on the deck, and Schnelle began light CPR — breathing into his mouth, but not giving him chest compressions.
Within a minute or two, the boy came to and started throwing up water. The guards carried him to the guard shack, where they waited for paramedics and the boy's father to arrive.
"When (paramedics) arrived, he was responsive and following simple commands," Parson recalled. She said the boy was taken to a local hospital, where he was examined and released.
When Goetzelman spied the boy from her lifeguard chair, Schnelle, who had been talking to her while on break, jumped in and swam to him. She and Seaman got him out of the water, and then Schnelle began CPR.
"I was completely freaked out," recalled Schnelle, who had never had to perform CPR in her five years as a guard. "I was not giving up on him. I did not want to lose him."
Schnelle said she was relieved when the boy began spitting up water and crying. She said she and the other lifeguards were near tears, too.
"It's a lot more terrifying than you would think," she said, adding their training didn't prepare them for the emotions they might feel. "Usually, (our mood) is pretty laid back. That whole day, we stayed quiet and did our jobs."
Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Rickey Williams, who is also an alderman, praised the pool staff at a Danville City Council meeting recently.
"It goes to show the importance of having a well-trained and well-qualified staff on hand because accidents do happen," he said, adding the boy is OK now. "Training can make a life-saving difference."
Parson said the young staff, including other guards, had just had a refresher course in performing CPR and using an automated external defibrillator before the pool's opening on May 26.
"Some of the kids were like, 'Why do we need to do this? We're all certified.' I think we realize now it never hurts to have more training," she said.