Boy's life saved by Rec Center lifeguards

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The life of a three-year-old Petersburg boy was saved from drowning in the outdoor swimming pool at the Lewisburg Recreation Center on Saturday afternoon.

Gabriel Harmon, the son of Ria Harmon of Volunteer Road, Petersburg, was revived by Aquatics Director Jimmy Stitt, according to Guy Chambers, manager of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

"Our guards did a wonderful job and we're proud of them," Chambers said.

The incident was at 12:41 p.m., June 5.

"He was just playing in the water," Stitt said. "He probably swallowed some water."

Lifeguards who saw him thought the boy was doing "somersaults," Stitt said.

"We think he looked like he was playing and yet he was trying to get air," Stitt said. "A little girl tapped him and he just went limp."

Lifeguard Cody White, son of Cathy and Paul White Jr. of Hull Avenue, "went in for the save, picked up the little boy, hollered for another lifeguard... and the pool was cleared," Stitt said.

Stitt performed 30 compressions, stopped and was about to give the boy two breaths of air when little Harmon "made the sound of breathing, so we rolled him to his side and water started leaving his mouth for 15-20 seconds and then he started to cry," the aquatics director said.

"The boy started crying, so I picked him up," Stitt continued. "A family friend took the mother away from this (CPR) to a blanket in the grass area and when the boy started crying, we took him to the mother," Stitt said. "He cried for about a minute or two. He burped a few times, spit up some water and in a couple of minutes the paramedics showed up" from Marshall County's Emergency Medical Service.

"They checked his vital signs and his mother took the baby to the emergency room," Stitt said. "He was back to normal at about 4- 4:30 p.m."

Gabriel Harmon was also taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Stitt said.

Attempts to speak with Gabriel's mother, Ria Harmon, were unsuccessful.

The lifesaving here comes within a couple of weeks of two drownings at other municipal pools in Middle Tennessee and the drowning of a Marshall County toddler in the family's spring-fed farm pond on May 31 on Bivens Road.

"When the pool is packed," Chambers said of the pool here, "there might be a couple hundred people in the pool."

He wasn't sure how many were in the pool, "maybe 100-150," on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a swim test is not required to go in the pool, he said.

As for lifejackets, "If they want to use them, they're probably available, but there's no requirement on their use," Chambers said.

Five lifeguards were on duty at the time, Chambers said.

"On that day ... I know we had three on chairs and one walking around the pool and one at the basket room where they take tickets," he said. "They rotate every so often to keep them fresh and alert."