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‘Community effort’ pulls drowning boy from lake

Initially feared dead, victim is miraculously in stable condition

A 12-year-old boy was hospitalized Saturday after a valiant 20-minute effort by Marion County Lake residents and staff to rescue him from 8 to 10 feet of water at the lake’s swimming beach.

Residents involved in the rescue said the boy did not initially respond to resuscitation from emergency medical technicians at the scene.

However, with sustained CPR, a slow pulse returned either en route to or at St. Luke Hospital, and the boy was transferred by LifeTeam helicopter to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, where he was reported in stable condition Saturday evening.

Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson and a Wichita man who has a trailer across from the beach had been working nearby to set up gazebo stage in preparation for next week’s Bluegrass at the Lake concert.

The Wichita man, who declined to give his full name, had been watching three youths, part of a group of about half a dozen on the beach, playing with a black dog in the water when one of the boys went under.

“The folks all spoke Spanish and couldn’t so much as yell ‘Help!’” said the trailer owner, who identified himself only as Mike. “I was yelling, ‘Call 911!’ and about that time, Steve Hudson pulled up, and he came running as fast as he could, yelling, ‘Call 911!’”

The initial call to Marion rescue, fire, ambulance and sheriff’s personnel came at 9:54 a.m. The first units were reported on the scene at 10:02 a.m. A news release issued lated by the Marion County sheriff's office said highway patrol and Kansas wildlife and park officers also responded.

Even before emergency crews arrived, Hudson, “Mike” and other lake visitors began diving in an attempt to locate the boy.

“Steve and I and then Billy [another lake visitor] went in where I had seen them playing,” Mike recalled. “We’d stay down and sweep the bottom with our hands, trying to find him.

“The lake is pretty clear, but without diving gear we couldn’t really see that deep and had to do it by feel.”

He estimated that the water was 8 to 10 feet deep and the water temperature at the time was 74 degrees.

“I was down there,” Mike said. “It wasn’t that much colder at the bottom.”

Marion County almost immediately requested assistance from an underwater search and rescue team from Butler County and received confirmation that the team was en route at 10:12 a.m.

One minute later, ambulance crews on the scene reported that the boy had been located and was being pulled from the water.

Another lake resident, identified only as Billy, reportedly found the boy. Using a long rescue pole, Mike brought him to the surface. An off-duty Newton firefighter staying at the lake also was reported to have been involved in the rescue.

“We had a dragline and two poles going,” Mike said. “Once the sirens [including a beach siren] went off, everyone came running — about 10 or 12 of them: boaters off the lake, residents, everyone. Four or five individuals were diving. It was a real community effort.”

“Mike,” interviewed at the scene, declined to take any credit for his actions.

“Steve and his crew deserve all the credit,” he said.

Hudson, also interviewed at the scene, said he was too shaken to commment. At the time, neither he nor “Mike” was aware that the boy had been resuscitated.

After medical personnnel initially were unable to resuscitate the boy, they canceled the LifeTeam helicopter at 10:18 a.m. However, at 10:23 a.m., EMTs reported that the boy had vomited, and that LifeTeam, which continued en route, would be needed. The helicopter arrived at St. Luke Hospital at 10:37 a.m.

The boy’s identity and other information were not immediately available.

Last modified June 12, 2011

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