Firefighters honored for heroic rescue of 2-year-old boy

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Firefighters honored for heroic rescue of 2-year-old boy

By PATRICK DONOHUE
pdonohue@beaufortgazette.com
843-706-8152
Published Thursday, November 18, 2010   |  545 Words  |  

Burton firefighters Chris Alewine and Johnny Wynn were sitting down to dinner on a sticky July night earlier this year when a call for help came across the radio that helped make them Lowcountry heroes.

Less than a mile from their fire station on Bay Pines Road, a 2-year-old boy had fallen into a pool, the dispatcher said. He had been pulled from the pool by a family member. He had a pulse, but he wasn't breathing.

As they raced to the scene, Alewine knew time wasn't on their side.

"We had to get him breathing to get oxygen to his brain," Alewine said. "The longer he went without oxygen, the more likely it was that he would suffer brain damage."

When they arrived, family members were performing CPR on the child who laid lifeless in the grass.

The family quickly yielded to Alewine and Wynn who began trying to force water from the child's lungs.

Within 10 minutes, the toddler began to show signs of life as paramedics from Beaufort County EMS arrived on scene.

"They were loading him into the ambulance, and we heard him start to cry," Wynn said. "That was a pretty good sound."

The reality of what they'd done for the child and his family didn't register with them until much later, Wynn said.

"It just doesn't hit you until the call's over," Wynn said. "We talked about it a little but we still didn't know the status of the boy. It really hit us two weeks later when the whole family brought the child by the station to meet us. You see him running around the fire truck, and acting like a normal 2-year-old. It was really emotional."

The boy's family weren't the only ones grateful for what Wynn and Alewine did that day.

The Exchange Club of Beaufort honored the pair of firefighters with its Firefighter of the Year award during a luncheon earlier this month. Wynn and Alewine were nominated for the honor by Burton Fire Chief Harry Rountree. The pair's actions made them true heroes, and a natural fit for the award, said Leigh Copeland, president of the club.

"We were impressed by the level of commitment and professional focus that these two firefighters showed in an extremely stressful situation," Copeland said in a statement. "They saved the life of a small child -- what greater achievement is there?"

A member of the fire district for about three years, Alewine said he was humbled by the award but didn't think his actions that day were extraordinary.

"There are a lot of other firefighters who are deserving of this award, who are doing the same kind of thing every day," Alewine said. "I was just doing the job I was trained to do."

Wynn agreed.

"We had a job to do that day, and we knew we had to do it quickly," said Wynn, who has been with the department 16 years. "It's nice to be a part of something positive like this because not all of the calls we run have a happy ending."