A group of Milton and Essex residents were honored at Founders Memorial School earlier this week after they saved a young boy from drowning.
Students Julian Ercole, Liam Kang and Abigail and Zachary Jackman were joined by parents on stage during a packed assembly last Friday to receive life-saving awards from Essex emergency departments, recognizing their heroic efforts on January 27 in Hartford, Conn.
There for a gymnastics meet, the four kids were swimming in the hotel pool when other children from a birthday party joined them. At one point, some of the Vermont parents started to notice one boy bobbing in the water and asked the supervising adult if he was OK. They assured the boy was fine, but a few minutes later, he was completely submerged.
The Vermont group sprung into action. Essex resident Heath Jackman instructed Julian to swim to the bottom of the pool and grab the young boy. Julian said his “stomach was in knots” during the incident, but he wasn’t thinking when he dove down into the pool.
“I just knew it had to be done,” said Julian, a fourth-grader at Founders Memorial. “So I did it.”
Heath Jackman then jumped in, took the boy from Julian’s arms and moved him over to the deck. He instructed his wife, Amy, to call 911, while former EMT Tabatha Kittson, a Milton resident, performed two rescue breaths. She then checked for a pulse. There wasn’t one.
Kittson started in on compressions and traditional CPR for the next couple minutes, tears beginning to stream down her face because nothing seemed to be working.
“I just did whatever I could to make him breathe,” she said.
At one point, she flipped the boy over and performed the Heimlich, then returned to CPR, and moments later heard a gurgle so faint she thought she might be hearing things.
She turned his head and shook it gently to try and get the water out. Finally, he started breathing, but the loss of oxygen to his brain caused him to have a seizure in Kittson’s arms.
Emergency personnel arrived soon after, filing into the pool house through the locked doors propped open by Abigail and Zachary, FMS third-graders.
Essex Cpl. Kurt Miglinas, who presented the awards, said he checked in with Connecticut officials who said the boy has recovered.
Heath Jackman said he was proud of the children’s poise during the harrowing event and deflected any praise for his role. “Anyone in this situation would have done something similar,” he said.
He believes the children learned how serious drowning is, and that they should keep an eye out anytime they’re in the water.
For Kittson, her and son Liam’s awards are just the latest for the courageous family: The ceremony came nearly a year after Kittson’s other son, Quinnlan, was honored by Milton police for saving his friend’s life after she fell into a home septic tank.
Julian, meanwhile, clung to his new award, smiling big. He was happy and proud to know he helped saved a life, and said he would take home a lesson, too.
“I learned that anybody can be a hero if they put their mind to it and look out for anything that is bad that is happening,” he said. “Stand up to it. Stand up to the challenge.”
Photos by Colin Flanders