Fairfield lifeguards rescue youth
By ANDY HALLMAN
Golden Triangle News Service
FAIRFIELD — Two teenage lifeguards saved a young boy from drowning Sunday at the Roosevelt Recreation Center’s indoor pool.
Fairfield Parks and Recreation director Derik Wulfekuhle said the incident occurred at about 2:45 p.m. when a group of children were playing in the deep end of the pool. They were trying to touch the bottom of the pool at its deepest point, which is 12 feet.
Riley Hammel, a student at Fairfield High School, noticed one of the kids had not come up to the surface. Wulfekuhle said Hammel dived in, grabbed the child and pulled him to safety. Hammel immediately began performing CPR on the child.
Wulfekuhle said the other lifeguard on duty was Paige Palmer, also a student at Fairfield High School. Palmer ran to tell the desk attendant, Dorothy Henson, to call 911 and to retrieve the automated external defibrillator (AED). An AED is a device used to reestablish a heartbeat in a patient through electric shocks.
Palmer ran back to the child with the AED in hand. Wulfekuhle said the ambulance and EMT arrived on the scene and began treating the boy, so the AED was not needed. The ambulance took the boy to the hospital. Wulfekuhle said the boy is doing fine.
Wulfekuhle said he was not at liberty to divulge the identity of the boy who was saved although he did say he was between the ages of 10 and 12. He said he learned of the incident shortly after it occurred at about 3 p.m. Wulfekuhle received word a potential drowning had occurred at the pool.
“The first thing that went through my mind was I wanted to make sure everyone was OK,” he said. “Then, the manager and I wanted to know how our staff handled the situation after knowing everyone was OK.”
Wulfekuhle said he was thoroughly impressed with the job the lifeguards and staff did Sunday.
“To find out everyone was doing their job and that they saved a kid from drowning made me proud,” he said.
Wulfekuhle often plays the role of enforcer at the pool, telling the staff to put away their cell phones and to stay in their lifeguard chairs. “I’m not always the nice friend at work,” he said. “To find out they did everything the way they were taught made me proud.”
Wulfekuhle said much credit must go to Scott Slechta and Christy Leazer. Slechta is the head lifeguard and Lezer is the aquatic superintendent. Wulfekuhle said they’re the ones who prepare the young lifeguards for exactly this scenario.
“Because of the experience they got from those two adults, these two lifeguards were prepared for this situation,” he said.
Wulfekuhle said the Fairfield City Council plans to formally recognize the lifeguards and staff involved in saving the young boy. It plans to do that at its next meeting, Monday, May 13.
Hammel and Palmer have been lifeguards for nearly two years. Wulfekuhle said most of his lifeguards are either high school or college students.
Wulfekuhle added the city has taken a proactive approach to safety by training nearly every city employee in the use of CPR and AED.
“You just never know when this kind of incident can happen,” he said. “You want to be prepared for these situations.”