Naples firefighters chisel toddler’s arm from clutches of vacuum line

By RYAN MILLS (Contact)

8:59 p.m., Monday, March 31, 2008


Naples firefighters rescued a two-year-old boy from a pool in Port Royal on Saturday, March 29, 2008.

An afternoon in a Naples swimming pool nearly turned tragic over the weekend after a toddler got his right arm stuck inside a pool vacuum line.

The 2-year-old boy’s nanny held him above water while firefighters and paramedics drained the pool and worked for over two hours to dislodge his arm from the pump.

About 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, Naples firefighters and paramedics were called to 3275 Rum Row in Port Royal in response to a call of a child who had fallen and hit his head, said Battalion Chief Pete DiMaria of the Naples Police & Emergency Services Department.

Instead, when the first units arrived, they found the 2-year-old, whose name was not released, in a wading pool with his right arm stuck in the vacuum line, DiMaria said. The boy’s nanny was holding him above the waterline.

“If he was left unattended, he would have been under the water the whole time,” DiMaria said.

The grate that should have been over the hole on the side of the pool was missing, authorities said.

Using a portable pump, firefighters drained most of the water from the pool. With the boy lying on the ground, firefighters and paramedics attempted to lubricate the boy’s arm using K-Y Jelly, Vaseline and WD

40. Authorities also attempted to shoot water back out the pipe with a garden hose to relieve the suction. “Nothing worked,” DiMaria said. “Nothing worked at all.The decision was eventually made to use air chisels and a circular saw to chip and dig an 8-inch by 12-inch

hole more than a foot deep down to the pipe. The boy was covered with a blanket, to protect him from flying chunks of concrete, and was given ear

protection to muffle the noise. Authorities placed two-by-four planks of wood below and above the 2-yearold’s arm to protect it in case an air chisel slipped. Firefighters, police and paramedics were concerned about hurting the boy further with their tools, DiMaria

said. “The entire time I had that in my mind,” he said. Eventually, authorities determined the air chisels were working too slowly, and called Sunbelt Rentals, 2600

Davis Blvd., to borrow two chipping hammers, said Sunbelt Manager Eric Crews.

“I threw one of my guys in a truck and took off,” Crews said. “We didn’t charge them anything for our service. We did what we had to do. We all have kids, so I’d hate for anything to happen to them.”

About two hours after they started digging, authorities reached the pipe. But instead of cutting through it with a saw, they called NCH Downtown Naples Hospital and borrowed a cast cutter.

“None of us had any experience with the cast cutter,” DiMaria said. “We tried it on each other to be sure it wouldn’t cut the skin.”

Officials cut grooves into the pipe, but the boy’s arm still wouldn’t budge. Using a syringe, a paramedic squirted some more lubricant on the boys arm, which finally came out of the pipe at 2:36 p.m., authorities said.

“As soon as that arm came out, there was such relief and a cheer from the crowd came out,” DiMaria said. “It could have been a bad outcome. Thank God it didn’t.”

Paramedics transported the boy to NCH North Naples Hospital with swelling around his hand and minor scratches on his arm, officials said.

A woman who answered the door at 3275 Rum Row on Monday declined to comment about the rescue. According to the Collier County Property Appraiser’s Web site, the home is owned by MHD Limited in Canada.

Between January 1990, and August 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 74 cases of body or limb entrapment in swimming pools, resulting in 13 deaths. During that same period the commission also reported 43 incidents of hair entrapment or entanglement in pools or spas, resulting in 12 deaths, and two cases of young children being disemboweled by drains.

In June, a 6-year-old girl in Minnesota sat on an open drain in a wading pool and had most of her small intestine sucked from her body. The girl, Abigail Taylor, died in March.

Jennifer Guttuso, the environmental supervisor of pools and healthy beaches with the Collier County Health Department, said when building a pool, it is best to not have vacuum lines going directly into the pool. Lines that do should be covered with a lock, plug or a grate.

Both children and adults need to be educated about pool safety, she said.

“You need to have a basic understanding of how your pool works, so if something happens you know how to handle it,” Guttuso said. “And then watch the children constantly. It seems like such an obvious answer, but it is surprising how many people don’t. All it takes is an inch of water. That’s it.”





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