Maine Boy Scout gets hero’s award; saved two from drowning in hotel pool

February 22, 2013

A feel good story, reprinted from the website of the Bangor (Maine) Daily News:

Portland Boy Scout earns rare award after saving two from drowning

By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
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Posted Feb. 18, 2013, at 4:44 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 19, 2013, at 8:48 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Parker Montano, 15, was in a hotel pool surrounded by about 20 other swimming and splashing youths when one, weighing almost 200 pounds, grabbed onto him and pulled him under in a panic.

Lifesaving Boy Scout Parker Montano of Portland, Maine

Boy Scout Parker Montano of Portland, Maine; photo by Peter Montano

Now, seven months later, the Portland Boy Scout will receive one of the organization’s most rarely given honors after saving that boy and another girl moments later at the same pool.

Montano, a Cheverus High School sophomore from South Portland, will receive the Boy Scouts of America’s Heroism Award during a ceremony in Portland on Feb. 28. Montano belongs to Troop 1 in Portland.

“This is a big deal,” Troop 1 scoutmaster John Hume told the BDN Monday. “The kids are always taught first aid and rescue techniques. Most of us take CPR, and most of us never use it. Parker was able to put his training to use when people needed it most. You need to make a conscious choice to act [in a situation like the one Montano faced], when realizing full well that everybody’s going to be watching you. … Parker took action, and that takes a level of courage that’s not common.”

Montano was on vacation with his family last July when the incidents occurred. He was swimming in the deep end of a hotel pool in New Jersey when the larger boy grabbed onto him, according to a news release issued Monday by the local Boy Scouts unit.

“The pool did not have a lifeguard,” the release reads. “Both boys went underwater momentarily, and on resurfacing, the boy told Parker he couldn’t swim. Parker used rescue techniques learned in Boy Scouts to take control over the larger boy and get him to safety.”

Montano was still catching his breath at the side of the pool when he was called into action again. A woman at the scene began screaming that her daughter had gone underwater without resurfacing.

“Parker scanned the pool and located the approximately 12-year-old girl,” the Troop 1 account of the incident reads. “He swam to the girl and dove to rescue her. He pulled her to the surface and swam her to the side of the pool, to waiting adults. The girl began coughing and was able to start breathing again.”

Montano said in a statement his reaction to the two pleas for help was “like an impulse.”

“It seemed like what was right at the moment,” he said. “My mind processed it later. The fear dawned on you over what happened, and then there was a sense of relief that you were there and could help.”

The Boy Scouts of America’s Heroism Award was given to 155 of the organization’s roughly 2.7 million members in 2012. That means fewer than one out of every 17,000 scouts earned the award last year. Hume said when the Feb. 28 ceremony takes place, it will be the first time he’s seen one awarded in his 40 years involved with scouting.

“[Parker] believes there is good in the world and sometimes it needs a helping hand,” Peter Montano, Parker’s father, said in the release. “I have never been so proud of my son.”

Parker Montano is pursuing Eagle Scout status, one of the highest levels attainable in the organization. He also is an accomplished runner who is scheduled to represent Maine as part of the East Central Conference cross country team in an international meet in Australia this summer, the Troop 1 release stated.

Morals to the story:  Post a lifeguard when you swim (do not swim alone); if you have a choice, swim with Boy Scouts around who can pull you out if you get into trouble.

BSA awarded 66 honor medals and 155 other heroism medals in 2012; I know of no list of the awardees.  Does anyone keep such history?

More:


High rates of drowning: Why is there a racial disparity in drowning deaths?

August 16, 2010

Congress granted a national charter to the American Red Cross to perform emergency services, and to teach people to swim, to prevent drowning, as part of the disaster-readiness services of the organization originally founded in 1881.  Many of us got our first swim lessons under the direction of a Water Safety Instructor trained and certified by the Red Cross; some of us went on to get WSI certification to teach swimming and lifesaving.

But for some reasons, these drowning prevention measures are not working to save the lives of African Americans as well as for everybody else.

NPR’s Talk of the Nation carried a story about the problem in today’s edition (available on-line here, a 30-minute story):

Swimming Disparity
The drowning deaths of six black teens in Louisiana renewed questions about the long-standing disparity between those Americans who can swim and those who can’t. Neither the teens who drowned nor their families who watched from shore could swim.  According to the CDC the rate of fatal drowning is highest among African-American children ages 5-14 (three times that of white children in the same age range) due to a combination of social, economic and cultural issues. Neal Conan talks about what causes the dangerous disparity in swimming, and how to recognize and assist someone who’s drowning.

Drowning rates run even higher for Native Americans.

Race disparities in drownings in the U.S.; AP chart via NPR

Race disparities in drownings in the U.S.; AP chart via NPR

More than 30 people have died in drowning accidents already this year in Texas alone — victims of all races — after a terrible 2009 record.  About 3,500 people die in the U.S. from drowning every year.  Most of these accidental deaths could have been prevented with the use of personal flotation devices, and may have been preventable had the people involved had basic drownproofing, or swimming, or lifesaving instruction.

(Remember this mantra:  Reach; throw; row; go.  Only after attempts to reach for the victim, perhaps with a pole, or throw a flotation device, or row a boat, should anyone including a well-trained lifesaver, go into the water to retrieve someone drowning.)

Where can people get instruction on how to prevent drownings?  Red Cross courses are offered at countless community pools — those pools are, alas, generally the first services cut back when cities and counties trim budgets, as they have been trimming since the start of our nation’s financial woes in 2008.    Other good sources of anti-drowning instruction are the YMCA, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts.

I received lifesaving instruction at community pools, and in Red Cross sanctioned programs at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah.  I earned the Swimming, Lifesaving, Rowing and Canoeing merit badges in Scouting, and I taught rowing and canoeing at a Scout camp and another camp, and I taught Red Cross Lifesaving for several years as a WSI.

Even in Dick Schwendiman’s astounding Advanced First Aid course at the University of Utah, I didn’t learn the following stuff about drowning, however (another Red Cross certified course).  Regardless whether you can get a lifesaving course, or if you’ve had one, you need to go read Mario Vittone’s stuff on drowning, and how to recognize when someone in the water needs help:

Button, Drowning doesn't look like drowning

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know – from fifty feet away – what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound.

You’ll find that life-saving article at Mario Vittone’s blog on boater safety. If you are a teen ager, a parent, a grandparent, or you ever swim, you need to read that article.  (Thanks to P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula for pointing the way to that post.)

Will you help save a life, please?

Resources:


Last one in the water . . .!

August 12, 2010

Beach sign in Australia - photo by Laura Hale

Sign on an Australian beach. Photo by Laura Hale

Tip of the old scrub brush to Laura Hale.


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