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Mufi Hannemann

Little Heroine Saves Drowning Boy

Chelsey Anne Dungca PHOTO COURTESY ANGELICA AUSTRIA

Chelsey Anne Dungca
PHOTO COURTESY ANGELICA AUSTRIA

It was a moment that caused several mothers’ hearts to be ripped out as they witnessed a 5-year-old boy lying lifelessly at the bottom of a swimming pool. It was a swim party’s worst nightmare as the women helplessly watched an 11-year-old girl save the young boy’s life. This dramatic scene unfolded July 10 when Chelsey Anne Dungca, a Honowai Elementary student, risked her own life to heroically save another.

Chelsey plucked her little friend out of a Coronado complex swimming pool on Kaneana Street in Ewa Beach, and turned a near tragic episode into an unbelievably miraculous day.

“I am very proud of Chelsey. I was so worried for the boy and for my daughter because when my sister called me that Thursday while I was at work, I really thought it was my daughter who was drowning,” said Chelsey’s mother Angelica Austria.

The sixth-grader is being hailed a heroine on Facebook and is credited with quick thinking for furiously saving the boy from drowning.

“We were just swimming, and my girlfriend Johnnelle (another 11-year-old) was using my goggles. She told me she saw something blue under the water,” said Chelsey. “I told Johnnelle to look again, so she went under the water. When she came back up, she told me it was our friend down there. I yelled, ‘Go get ‘em,” but she was so scared, she started to panic and cry.

“So, I took my goggles from her eyes and I swam into the deep side of the pool. I tried grabbing my friend once but he slipped. I think he was too heavy because he probably swallowed a lot of water. Then, I tried one more time to carry him and thankfully, I was able to drag him.”

The young heroine brought her young friend to safety and into the hands of screaming, frazzled mothers who took turns administering their very first CPR.

Chelsey says her aunty and the boy’s mom were so shaken that she ended up dialing 9-1-1 herself.

“They were too shocked and even forgot the number for 9-1-1, so I came out of the pool to dial the phone.”

That was heroic act No. 2 for Chelsey.

“After I called the police, I eventually passed the phone over to my aunty because we didn’t know the address.”

After a brief coughing spell, the boy regained consciousness. Within minutes the police, ambulance and fire-fighters turned up.

“My uncle also came out to the pool and he carried my friend to the bed (stretcher), and I went to check up on Johnnelle because she was still panicking,” she says. Chelsey’s mother Angelica appeared moments later.

“I picked my daughter up, gave her a great big hug,” said Angelica. “I cried in her arms and was so glad to see the boy was OK, because I didn’t want his parents to think that my daughter was responsible.”

But what she didn’t realize then was that it was actually her daughter who saved the day.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Pool Safety campaign is issuing the following safety tips:

* Never leave a child unattended in or near a pool or spa, and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water.

* Designate a “Water Watcher” to supervise children in the pool or spa. (This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone or be otherwise distracted.)

* Teach children basic water safety tips.

* If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.

* Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly.

* Have lifesaving equipment such as life rings, floats or a reaching pole available and easily accessible.

Hearing of Chelsey’s heroic actions gave me flashbacks to my near-drowning experience at the age of 5 at my Aunty Rose’s swimming pool in Aina Haina.

I was the only child there among adults, so I wandered off toward the deep end of the pool. While reaching in to touch the water, I somehow lost my balance and went in head first. My fate changed in the blink of an eye as I saw my short life flash right before me. I recall gasping for air and swallowing more water than my stomach could handle as I began to sink deeper and deeper, until my Aunty Rose and cousin Rene, both avid swimmers, rescued me.

I barely recall thanking my Aunty and cousin for being my heroes that day — certainly kudos are in order for angels like Chelsey Anne Dungca for saving the Ewa Beach boy’s life. Furthermore, Chelsey has every right to feel pretty special and deserves a pat on the back for earning her angel wings.

mufi@mufihannemann.com

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