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Trumbull Pool Guards Save Drowning Girl

July 13, 2007

By Susan Silvers, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

Jul. 13–TRUMBULL — In his brief career as a lifeguard, Cody Hutchinson has seen plenty of kids bob up and down in the water, holding their breath for a time as they go under.

So when the 15-year-old noticed a young girl in the pool at Beach Memorial Park about 5:25 p.m. Wednesday, he was not overly concerned at first.

But when the dark-haired youngster clad in a yellow swimsuit decorated with roses sank to the bottom in about 7 feet of water and stayed submerged in a fetal position an estimated 15 seconds, Hutchinson quickly realized something was wrong.

Hutchinson, perched on a high chair at the deep end of the pool, blew three times on his whistle — the emergency signal. Then, he dove into the pool — a diagonal distance of about 20 feet — as colleagues called 911 and sprinted to help from their nearby station where they had been preparing to give swim classes.

Thanks to Hutchinson and others who joined the rescue, a week filled with eight tragic deaths across the region — five of them drownings — finally was blessed by joy.

After about two minutes of life-saving efforts, rescuers and the girl’s parents finally heard the sweet sounds of her cries.

“It kind of goes along with what I hope to be doing in the future,” said Matthew Cellini, the lifeguard who helped Hutchinson pull the child from the pool.

A 20-year-old junior at Allegheny College, Cellini plans to become a doctor.

When the youngster — whose name was not released by officials — was first pulled from the pool, Cellini said he didn’t have time to think about how things might turn out.

“Her eyes were rolling in the back of her head,” he said.

He responded by doing what he’s been trained to do, placing a big valve mask over the girl’s face while volunteer medical professionals who happened to be at the park — a nurse from Bridgeport Hospital and a physician’s assistant at Norwalk Hospital — did chest compressions and took her pulse.

The volunteer Samaritans’ names also were not released by police.

“It was a relief to have them there,” Cellini said of the helpers. “They had done it before.”

But even the young Hutchinson, a Trumbull High School junior who hasn’t picked a career and who got his lifeguard certification last December, expressed confidence that they could have handled the emergency by themselves, if necessary.

The girl wanted to go home after she was revived, but emergency medical personnel whisked her to Bridgeport Hospital, where she remained under observation Thursday in fair condition.

The head lifeguard at the Beach pool, Michaela Walsh, said she posted a Connecticut Post article about last week’s drowning at Seaside Park in Bridgeport to remind her staff how serious their job is.

“She’s the head lifeguard for a reason,” Mary Markham, the town recreation director, said of Walsh, a seven-summer employee who makes sure five guards are stationed around the pool at all times.

Markham said Wednesday’s rescue came two days after Walsh conducted an emergency drill at the 10,000-square-foot pool.

Walsh, a senior at Susquehanna University, said the lifeguards have had to deal with other medical emergencies this season, including an out-of-pool seizure, but nothing of this magnitude.

Though gratified they were able to help, Hutchinson and Cellini on Thursday were taking no bows for their actions, instead focusing on the girl’s condition.

“I feel great that she’s alive,” Hutchinson said.

Susan Silvers, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6426.

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Copyright (c) 2007, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

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