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Baby rescued by retired fire chief

2:35 PM, Jun 19, 2012   |    comments
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ORANGE COUNTY, Cal. (KNBC) - An 11-month-old Orange County, California girl was rescued by her neighbor, a retired fire chief, when she nearly drowned Sunday afternoon in a backyard pool.

She is home from the hospital and back to her bubbly self.

"His action is why she's here. I truly believe that," said Naomi Peters, the baby's mother.

Cassidy managed to get through the fence surrounding the Peters' backyard pool and fell in, Naomi Peters said.

"She was like a rag doll, you know, blue and it's nothing you ever want to see," Naomi said.

In his 32 years with the Orange County Fire Authority, neighbor Joe Kerr said he immediately recognized the type of screams coming from below his Torrey Pines home.

"In my experience, you know, she was gone," Kerr said.

Still, Kerr's decades of first-responder instinct kicked in.

"We all made the difference. I was just one link in the chain," said Kerr. "I was fortunate enough to be in the position to do rescue breathing."

It was almost serendipitous that Kerr was outside when he was, and in the position to respond.

"Since it looked like the U.S. Open was going nowhere, my son encouraged me to go outside and instead of working in the front yard, he wanted to work in the backyard," Kerr said.

The pair was gardening when they heard screams.

"It typically sounded like a parent whose child was in jeopardy," Kerr said.

Kerr told his son to find his grandfather inside, quickly rinsed off with a hose and jumped over a fence to run barefoot down a steep hill toward the screams.

From his backyard, perched above a two-lane road, Kerr could not see the house, but guessed correctly which one it was.

"I knocked on the door and was met by a grieving mother apparently on the phone with 911," Kerr said.

Kerr ran to the back of the house and found a couple of a adults hovering over a wet baby that wasn't breathing, her nose and mouth turning blue.

That's when Kerr initiated mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the child and told the family to call 911 and request a Code 3 ambulance, with lights and sirens.

Within less than one cycle of CPR chest compressions, the baby gasped, choked and began to cough up water, Kerr said.

Minutes later firefighters and paramedics arrived and took over the operation.

The baby was breathing, but her oxygen levels were low, about 60 percent, Kerr said.

The baby also showed signs of potential neurological damage.

"We weren't out of the woods yet," he said.

As first responders transported the baby to the hospital, about 15 minutes away, her oxygen levels improved.

They were greeted with a standing ovation from emergency room nurses and doctors, Kerr said.

A relative of the baby called Kerr Monday with an update, letting him know the child was going home with mom and does not appear to have any brain damage.

She was playing peek-a-boo with hospital staff and nurses, Kerr said.

There have been 17 drownings or near drownings in Orange County so far this year, a sign Kerr said, that paramedics need to be retained by cash-strapped cities.

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