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The Boston Globe

Metro

Boy nearly drowns in Lowell pool

Child responds to CPR by nurse and lifeguards

LOWELL — The sweltering heat made Thursday a perfect pool day, and children came from all over the neighborhood to cool off in the city pool on Cross Street. Nay Blut Aung, a skinny 5-year-old who relies on the dog paddle to swim, didn’t have to walk very far — he lives just across the street.

But he almost didn’t make it through the day.

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At 1:28 p.m, Nay was found lifeless in the pool. Two lifeguards rushed to pull the boy out of the water, and with the help of a nurse who happened to be at the pool, gave him CPR. A police officer called for an ambulance.

Four minutes later, Nay was breathing. He was rushed to a hospital where he remained Friday under observation.

Nay lives with his parents and two sisters in an apartment on Cross Street, less than a football field’s length from the Raymond Lord Memorial Pool. The family arrived from Myanmar less than a year ago.

The boy is not able to swim very far, said his father, Zaw Aung, who was sitting on the floor of the family’s sparsely decorated apartment on Friday morning. Aung spoke with the aid of a translator.

Aung said Nay and his two sisters, ages 11 and 10, went to the pool Thursday with an adult friend. The sisters aren’t sure what happened, but said Nay was playing near the rope separating the shallow and deep ends.

“He’s OK now, doing better,” Aung said. Asked whether his children would return to the pool this summer, he initially responded, “never,” then added, “maybe they [will] learn to swim and then they can go to the low part.”

But Nay’s older sister, Phwe Aung, shook her head from side to side. “I’m too scared to go,” she said through the translator.

Their mother, Hel Pho, was at the hospital Friday, by Nay’s bedside.

About 100 children were in the pool Thursday, according to the two 19-year-old lifeguards who came to the boy’s rescue. Both lifeguards have four years experience.

Joseph Ford said he was scanning the pool’s shallow area, which is about 4 feet at its deepest, when he noticed a boy struggling near the ropes separating it from the deep area.

Then the boy started sinking. Ford blew his whistle, and jumped into the water, pulling the child up.

“The training just kicked in, didn’t really have to think about it,” he said.

Noelia Aquino, who was also patrolling the pool, jumped in too, after telling bystanders to call 911.

They laid the boy on the deck, and Aquino started CPR, using a breathing mask. A woman who identified herself as a nurse offered assistance.

“She helped me with the breaths, and I gave compressions,” Aquino said.

The nurse, who was at the pool with her daughter, left soon after the boy started breathing and has not been identified.

“I’m really thrilled that it worked out the way it did, said Ford. “It feels good, but again, it’s just our job in the end.”

For residents who live in the area, Nay’s close call was a somber reminder of the dangers of pools, large and small.

“We have a pool in our backyard. It’s just a little one but it scares me enough right there,” said Kathy Gallagher, who was walking past the pool with her 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. She said she doesn’t allow her children to go to the city pool yet.

“You gotta keep an eye on them, you have to be with them at all times,” she said. “They’re fast, they’re little, they’re here, and then they’re gone.”

S. J. Port, spokeswoman for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees all the state’s public pools, said an report would be filed and pool’ staff were offered counseling.

There has been one drowning at a municipal pool in the past eight years, Port said.

On June 26, 2011, in Fall River, Marie Joseph, 36, drowned in Vietnam Veterans Memorial Pool in Lafayette Park, but the water was so murky that lifeguards did not find her body for two days.

An inquiry by the Bristol District Attorney’s office revealed a failure of DCR employees to ensure the pool was safe for swimming

Brian Shanahan, the former regional director for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Jeff Carter, a former DCR district manager, were sentenced in 2012 to a year of probation after admitting to reckless endangerment.

The pool was reopened last summer.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @globeballou.
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