Quick action averted tragedy at pool

  • Tue Jul 20th, 2010 9:33pm

By Oscar Halpert For The Enterprise

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Less than a minute.

That’s about how long Kenan Nero estimates he took his eyes off of his youngest son, Tariq, 4, while the boy and his brother Emir, 8, played in the swimming pool at the Northern Lights Apartments the afternoon of July 14.

Nero, 35, was at the deep end of the pool near his eldest daughter, Asha, 13, diving to retrieve a toy.

Nero’s wife, Jennifer, had just taken the couple’s youngest daughter, Ayanna, 6, to the restroom at the nearby cabana.

The family went to the pool at the apartment complex in the late afternoon to try out new goggles and swim toys, including the Noodle, a tube-shaped flotation device.

When Nero looked up, he saw Tariq and Emir playing at the shallow end. But something was unusual, Nero said. Emir held Tariq in his arms.

“My initial thought was maybe they were playing,” Nero said. “My boys like to wrestle and fight.”

Within seconds, he knew something was wrong.

The boys weren’t playing. Tariq was drowning.

“I yelled, ‘Emir, you gotta get his head out of the water!’

Emir yelled back: “‘I’m trying to but I can’t,’” Nero said.

Realizing his son was limp and had turned blue, Nero grabbed Tariq, placed his youngest son at the pool’s edge and began to administer the CPR he’d learned years ago.

Jennifer Nero remembers walking out of the cabana, terrified and worried.

“I heard, ‘Breathe!’” she said. “I walked out to see my son blue and not breathing.”

Mark Lightner, the complex’s maintenance supervisor, dialed 911 from an emergency telephone just outside the pool’s locked gate.

As he spoke with a dispatcher, he could hear the sounds of Tariq being revived.

“I could hear the little boy cry and stuff,” Lightner said. “I actually saw him turn on his side and spit out water.”

Snohomish County Fire District 1 paramedics were on the scene within four minutes.

“I think what saved him is we were able to get him out right away,” Nero said.

Paramedics took the boy to the emergency room at Stevens Hospital as a precaution. He later was transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital. The hospital released him to his parents the next day.

As the warmer weather hits, there is more concern about kids and teenagers enjoying the water. Experts say parents should supervise their children at all times.

“Happily, this little boy is fine,” said Kathleen Reilly, spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. “We estimate that more than 300 children under the age of 5 every year drown in swimming pools and spas.”

The Neros say they learned the importance of close supervision around water and will make sure their children wear life vests.

“We usually have the vest on him,” Kenan Nero said. “We couldn’t find the vest this time. We learned our lesson.”

Lightner said he’s known the Neros for 14 years.

“I can’t even imagine what it would be like having to do that to your own kid,” he said.

Oscar Halpert writes for the Herald of Everett.