N.M. deputy saves drowning toddler

By Maggie Shepard 
Albuquerque Tribune

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County sheriff's Deputy Vincent Chapa has started his 30-day countdown to retirement on a high note—a very happy high note.

This morning he brought an 18-month-old girl back to life after she almost drowned in her grandmother's swimming pool.

About 9:15 a.m., the toddler slipped between the pool edge and its cover after wandering out of her grandmother's home in the 1600 block of Sierra Vista Street Southwest, Chapa said.

The grandmother pulled the unconscious girl from the water, called 911 and brought her to the front yard where she attempted to resuscitate her.

That's where Chapa, patrolling nearby when he heard the call, found them.

"She, the grandmother, was panicking and trying to breathe for the baby," Chapa said. "She was definitely in panic mode, but she did the right thing and brought her out and put her on a hard surface in front of the house."

There, Chapa said he set to saving the youngster.

"I turned her over and water came out, and I started rescue breathing until the paramedics came," he said. "It seemed like forever, but it was only about five, six minutes."

By then, Chapa had gotten more water out of the girl's lungs - and breathed a sigh of relief when he heard her cry.

Chapa is one of the select deputies trained in advanced first aid. A former parole officer, he's been with the department nine years and plans to retire in 30 days.

Without today's rescue, his last days as a deputy might have been filled with more difficult memories. Last month he was called to help an auto garage worker seriously injured when a machine exploded.

"His injuries were too serious to keep him alive, so this was great, because it was a big thing. The baby was alive," Chapa said. 

Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Tribune

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