The quick actions of an off-duty Modesto Police Officer saved the life of his drowning 2-year-old niece during a Turlock Fourth of July party.
The officer, Ben Kroutil, was honored by the City of Turlock on Tuesday night with the highest honor the Turlock Fire Department can bestow upon a citizen performing a heroic act.
“His training and quick action obviously made the difference in the outcome for Makynzie (Belo),” said Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman.
Children and adults had spent the morning swimming at Kroutil's parents' Turlock home. Around 3:30 p.m., most of the adults got out of the pool to put up sunshades, leaving Kroutil's wife alone in the pool with approximately nine children.
Kroutil heard his wife screaming, and came back to find his two-year-old niece Makynzie Belo's face blue and lifeless, with no pulse to be found. After later reconstructing the series of events, the Kroutils believe that she was in the water no more than two minutes.
“I can't imagine anything more scary for a parent than to have your child in a tragic situation like that,” Turlock Mayor John Lazar said.
Kroutil, a police officer for nearly 13 years who previously received medical training, immediately performed child CPR. After five back blows and five chest compressions, Makynzie spit out water and began to breathe.
“I'm super grateful I was able to implement that training that day and save my niece,” Kroutil said. “… It was a tragic event and could have gone much worse.”
Turlock Police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, finding Makynzie in good condition. She was taken to Emanuel Medical Center, then transferred to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera, before being released the next day.
Her survival was a miracle, many at the hospitals said. CPR is less successful when given to young children – a fact Kroutil knew first-hand, having previously administered child CPR through his job.
“I'm grateful that we were able to turn it into a better day, and she's fine, and we don't have to deal with her loss,” Kroutil said.