Off-duty firefighter saves 4-year-old girl who drowned in neighbor’s pool
ELMWOOD PARK — Battalion Chief Robert Bruce Sr. thought it was going to be a relaxing Sunday.
That all changed when a neighbor came to his home saying that a young girl had drowned in their pool and wasn't breathing after being pulled out.
Bruce, a father of three, grabbed his radio and ran two houses down, where he saw the girl laying by the side of the pool, he told New Jersey 101.5. He started CPR on the 4-year-old with two chest compressions, and she started to breathe.
After he turned her onto her side, Bruce said, the girl threw up the water and he was able to clean her up before police and paramedics arrived.
Though he wasn't sure how the girl had drowned, Bruce said he was told she was found at the bottom of the pool before she was pulled out.
The neighbors came and got "the fireman that lives down the street" while they were calling 911, Bruce said.
"They ran and got me and that's when I ran to the house," he said.
Although he has been a first-responder for many years, Bruce said this was the first time he has had a call like this — and it is one he knows he won't soon forget.
"Everybody always wonders what's going to happen, but your training kicks in and you just go. You just do. You don't think. I was elated," he said. "To help save a child — anybody, let alone a little child — was ... one of my greatest accomplishments."
Councilman Joseph Dombrowski commended Bruce, telling the Daily Voice "Our community is grateful and lucky to have him and other volunteers like him in our town."
Bruce said he was "tickled pink" to learn from the neighbor's family that the girl was going to be okay.
The rescue of the young girl was not the only one by a first-responder over the past week. The Atlantic City Police Department reported that last Thursday night two officers helped save a 10-year-old boy who was trapped in a wood groyne on the beach.
The boy was in water up to his chest with waves that crashed over his head before officers were able to free him, police said. They did not release his identity, but said he was from Philadelphia. He was treated for an injury to his lower leg and was taken to AtlantiCare Regional medical Center, City Division where he was treated and released.
"With the summer season in full swing, we need our residents and visitors to be mindful when enjoying the beach and ocean," the Atlantic City Police Department said in a press release. "Do not go into the water if the beach is not protected by a member of our beach patrol. This is not only for the safety of the swimmer, but for someone that may need to rescue them.
Last summer was a deadly one across the state, with multiple drownings reported in pools, lakes and in the ocean. Some of the drownings included a man in a Brielle pool, an 8-year-old girl in a pool in Jackson just a few days later and a 51-year-old man drowning in Lake Hopatcong a few days before that.