It took less than 10 minutes to rush two young Lancaster children to a Cheektowaga hospital shortly after they were found unconscious in a backyard pool Friday. Volunteer ambulance crews were at the Lancaster home for less than a minute.
“That’s how fast we grabbed them and ran,” said Jeffrey Bono, vice president of Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
But that brief span of time is seared in the minds of the first responders, who were still struggling Saturday to cope with the tragic events that ended with one child’s death and another clinging to life.
A 3-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother were discovered by family members in a backyard pool at 36 Rose St. at around 7:30 p.m. Friday, after a brief, frantic search. The girl was pronounced dead about an hour later at Sisters of Charity Hospital St. Joseph Campus. Her brother was later transferred to Women & Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, where he was in critical condition Saturday. Police did not release their names.
Many involved in the effort to save the children considered the event heartbreaking in light of the cooperative efforts of many first responders.
“This is the worst case that many of us have ever had in our entire lives,” Bono said of the emergency medical technicians who were at the scene. “They were just kids. It’s hard enough to take just one.”
Based on a preliminary investigation, the two children were with family members in the above-ground pool earlier Friday afternoon, Lancaster Police Capt. William Karn Jr. said.
It appears everyone later came inside, and the children played video games while the adults fell asleep, Karn said.
“Somehow,” he said, “the kids snuck out and got back in the pool.”
There are two sets of steps that lead in and out of the pool. It is unclear whether the pool has any safety features.
An infant, who was not a sibling to the two youngsters, also was being cared for by a grandmother at the home. When an aunt of the two youngsters came to pick up the infant, she asked where the two other children were, Karn said.
“At that point, everyone became frantic and began searching around,” he said. “Until the aunt came over, no one was aware they were missing.”
Police were called after family members discovered the children in the pool.
The children’s father was apparently at the house, but the mother was not present and does not live at the address, Karn said.
Lancaster Police, the Town Line Fire Department and Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded.
Police and emergency medical service personnel immediately tried to resuscitate the children and continued to work on them until they reached the hospital in two separate ambulances.
Bono said it took about seven minutes for the two ambulances to rush the children to the hospital.
Firefighters stepped into the vehicles with ambulance crews and assisted in the rescue efforts.
Lancaster and Cheektowaga police blocked off intersections so the ambulances could have clear passage to the hospital, while those in the ambulance started IVs, did chest compressions, tried to clear airways and grabbed supplies from the shelves, Bono said.
He estimated that roughly 10 people struggled to keep both children alive on the short rides, and he expressed his gratitude to everyone who played a role in those crucial minutes after the emergency call.
Afterward, he said, the Rev. Joe Bayne, chief chaplain of the Erie County Department of Emergency Services, was called so that everyone involved in the situation could receive counseling.
“He was a busy, busy man last night,” Bono said.
The death of the Lancaster girl comes after Thursday’s drowning of a 1-year-old girl who wandered unnoticed from her Akron home in the evening and died in a backyard kiddie pool.
Charliebeth Vohwinkel, the daughter of a member of the village’s volunteer fire department, managed to leave her parents’ East Avenue home and enter the metal-framed pool, which was about 6 feet wide, authorities said.
Her mother discovered her in the pool. The child was taken to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst, where she was pronounced dead.