CLINTON — A 9-year-old Clinton boy and his 7-year-old cousin became accidental heroes after rescuing a toddler from drowning in Deer Lake on Whidbey Island May 26.
Mason Slattum and Blake Ogden were playing in the lake when the incident occurred. The cousins had been involved in a squirt-gun fight when they were tasked with watching over a 3-year-old boy by the boy’s mother, who had turned her back for just a moment to sweep off the community dock.
The toddler, who had been standing on the shore, walked over to the dock in the blink of an eye and fell off into the water, face-first.
“I said to myself, ‘I gotta go save him,’” Mason said. “I picked him up and was swimming with my legs because I couldn’t touch (the bottom.)”
Mason, who considers himself a strong swimmer, estimated that the area where the 3-year-old fell in was about five feet deep — a depth that seems unfathomable to kids.
“I swam as fast as I could over there,” he said. “It took a second for it to click in. I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to start drowning.’”
His cousin, Blake, helped in the rescue, pulling the younger child to safety up on the dock.
“I ran over to him and I pulled him up on the back and started patting his back and he puked out water on my foot,” Blake said.
“He was really wet and cold and crying,” Mason said, but apart from that, the toddler was unharmed.
Heather Ogden, Blake’s mother, did not witness the rescue but heard about it. The next morning, the mother of the 3-year-old boy approached her and expressed gratitude for the boys’ swift action.
“I’m just glad the boys were there when they were,” Heather Ogden said. “Thank goodness the boys knew what to do.”
Tressa Ogden, Mason’s mother, agreed.
“We are so proud of these two boys and their quick thinking,” she said.
Saving others in need may be a familial trait. Twenty years ago, The South Whidbey Record reported that Mason’s grandfather, Doug Slattum, heard the cries of a man who was stuck in the mud and had water up to his chest in the Maxwelton Valley. The man was rescued and treated for hypothermia.
Doug Slattum said his grandson called him shortly before bedtime Wednesday night to tell him the good news about the rescue.
“He’s just a smart kid,” Doug Slattum said. “He’s always thinking.”
Mason has a piece of advice for those out in open water above their heads.
“Life vests are very important. They save lives,” he said.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.