Wichita, Kan. Fire Crew Saves Boy From Drowning

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Capt. Boyd Lauber feared the worst when he was handed a young boy after he was plucked from a storm-swollen creek. Max, who was 2 years old at the time, was cold to the touch, his lips were deep purple, his airway was full of muddy water and his skin was ashen.

“He was obviously deceased, not breathing, no pulse,” said Lauber, a captain on Wichita’s Quint 15, who is also an EMT with 28 years in the fire service.

But like all good EMTs, Lauber and his two firefighters, Tim Robinson and Chris DeLeon were not going to give up without a fight and they began working on the child, doing CPR and airway management right on the side of the flooded creek.

“At first, after two or three minutes we got a little bit of pinking up,” Lauber said. “We kept doing CPR and then rolling him over and clearing his airway and doing mouth to mouth… I couldn’t believe how much water was in his little lungs."

With a bit more effort, Lauber said Max, who was clad in a cartoon t-shirt and a diaper, began gagging and then agonal respirations. Before the ambulance arrived, the team had given the child enough oxygen and worked on him long enough and effectively enough that he had a pulse and was breathing on his own.

“It was an amazing feeling,” Lauber said. “To have a purple child go from that to pink to having a pulse and breathing in the back of the ambulance is really something.”

Max, after spending several weeks in the hospital, has made a full recovery and now, just about a year later, Lauber is looking forward to meeting the toddler. He and his two firefighters have been awarded a unit citation for their heroic efforts from Firehouse and there’s expected to be a ceremony of sorts for the occasion.

Lauber, who has grown children of his own, and seven grandchildren was touched by the successful save.

“To know he’s going to grow up and have a normal life is really something,” said Lauber commenting that Max has no deficits and is fully recovered.

Lauber knows the stars had to align and everyone had to know exactly what to do for that kind of outcome to have occurred.

It was July 26, 2013 when Max, his two siblings and his grandfather had gone for a walk along a small creek on public land in Wichita. A storm had passed through the night before and run off had turned the small creek into a swift water rapid.

Max broke away from his grandfather went to the edge of the creek and slipped on the rain-soaked banks. The boy’s grandfather and siblings watched in horror as the boy was swept in the tributary to the Arkansas River.

Max’s grandfather made a quick 911 call, launching an armada of Wichita responders all praying for the best. Lauber said 10 engines were called into action. Boats and dive teams were mobilized. The thought was the boy was probably going to end up in the river which was about a mile downstream.

Lauber said his station is only about a mile from the scene and they were there in minutes. Six Wichita police officers, Lauber and his two firefighters scrambled to get to the water’s edge as quickly as possible.

“We could see where he slipped and went in, but it didn’t make much sense much sense climbing down there,” Lauber said. “The water was moving so fast, we knew he got swept away. Lauber said he, his two firefighters, and six police officers kicked into high gear and ran down the creek banks looking for Max.

One of the officers thought he spotted the silhouette of the boy, about six inches beneath the surface of the water, face down. He had become tangled in some rocks, which kept him from being washed further downstream.

Lauber said the officer stepped into the creek, which was two to three feet deep because of the storm, and plucked Max out of the water.

The lifeless boy was handed to the firefighters who went to work immediately.

And they did it – Max was alive again.

“It heartwarming to work on a field save on a kid,” Lauber said. “It was great to be part of a team that saved the boy. We had the skills and the knowledge and we did it. …It doesn’t always work, but it’s great when it does. It was a good day.”