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13-month-old boy airlifted to hospital after falling into cooler

(Matt Basham)


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RIVERTON — A 13-month-old boy was airlifted to a hospital with life-threatening injuries Wednesday after nearly drowning in a small cooler.

But his family is hoping CPR performed by his recently trained grandparents will ultimately allow him to live.

The boy was in the backyard of his parents' home near 13600 South and 2200 West around 11:30 a.m. when his mother found him in a small, square cooler about 18 inches deep, according to the family.

"Because a child’s head is (typically) bigger and heavier, he couldn’t get out," said Unified police detective Ken Hansen. "His face was in that water for a matter of minutes."

The boy's mother found him not breathing, Hansen said. It's likely he was drowning in about 6 inches of water after getting trapped by trying to look into the cooler, according to the detective. He was airlifted to Primary Children's Hospital, where he was listed in stable but critical condition early Wednesday evening, according to his mother.

The boy's grandmother said he had turned blue when his mother first discovered him.

"It's one of those things that happened so fast," said the woman, who wished to keep her name private. "And it's so devastating right now."

The boy's grandmother said she, her husband and the boy's parents were inside the while the baby and his older brother played in the backyard for only "a couple minutes."

Nobody knew that water was in the cooler, the woman said, and they still aren't sure whether it may have been filled with rain or snow runoff.

"You just don't think it's going to happen 'til it does," she said.

The boy's grandmother said the 13-month-old suffered "severe damage to his lungs." She and her husband, who were recently retrained in CPR rescue techniques at their construction jobs, worked to resuscitate the boy before first responders arrived and airlifted him to a hospital.

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"I would urge everyone, if you don't know infant or child rescue tactics, that you learn them," the woman said. "Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I took the refresher course, and I'm so glad we did. But I just hope it was enough."

Hansen said emergency responders were encouraged by the fact that the boy, who wasn't breathing when his mother found him, had started breathing again by the time he was put on the helicopter.

"We’re really hopeful that he survives," he said.

The detective praised the quick action of the boy's grandparents and said it's possible their CPR training will end up as the difference between life and death.

"It’s good to stay updated because (CPR training) does change from time to time," Hansen said. "It’s a good idea to keep current with it. … The amount of time you can reduce that deprivation of oxygen, it really reduces the chances of (the victim) being in critical condition."

Hansen recommended securely covering all coolers or other containers kept outdoors so rainwater doesn't get into them. He said young children can drown in just inches of water "in just a matter of seconds."

"You always have to have eyes on them when they’re around water," Hansen said.

Contributing: Brianna Bodily

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