Boy survives near-drowning at Lake Tapps; quick-thinking nurse performs CPR

Leica Martinez, center, poses with her daughter, Leica and family friends Preet Kaur, right, and Ethan Hackner Tuesday afternoon at North Tapps Park. Martinez
Leica Martinez, center, poses with her daughter, Leica and family friends Preet Kaur, right, and Ethan Hackner Tuesday afternoon at North Tapps Park. Martinez's quick thinking helped save a 4-year-old boy's life after he nearly drowned in the lake.
— image credit: Brian Beckley / The Courier-Herald

A 4-year-old boy nearly became the fourth drowning victim this year on Lake Tapps, but the quick action of a local nurse who was visiting the park with family and friends may have saved the boy's life.

Leica Martinez, a nurse's assistant from Puyallup, helped perform CPR on the boy after he was pulled from the lake.

East Pierce Fire and Rescue transported the boy to Mary Bridge Hospital. The boy's name has not been released and his condition is unknown, but he was reported to be alert when rescue workers arrived.

Martinez said she was sitting on her towel near the boat launch as a woman with two children made their way out of the lake.

"When she got out there was only one of them," Martinez said.

The other boy told his mother that his brother was under the water and the mother quickly pulled the boy out of the lake. According to Martinez and other witnesses, he was not breathing.

"His lips were purple, his eyes were rolled back," she said, adding that he looked dead. "He wasn't breathing. He wasn't doing anything."

Martinez instructed the mother on how to perform mouth-to-mouth while she began performing CPR on the boy.

After a few compressions, the boy began coughing up saliva and mucous. After a few more compressions, the boy opened his eyes.

"He came through and started recognizing things," Martinez said.

Kimberly Heyl, a second nurse's assistant who happened to be visiting the park, said she also aided in the rescue and that it did not look good when the boy was first pulled from the lake.

"This child came out of the water blue," she said, but added "We got him back."

Martinez said she has never had to perform CPR before and was initially worried she might not remember how, but said her training kicked in.

"Once it happened, it just clicked and we did it and we saved him," she said.

Martinez said it feels "wonderful" to have helped.

"We saved a life and it makes me very happy," she said.

Witnesses, including Martinez, said that as people from the park tried to call 911, they were met with busy signals and said it seemed like 20 minutes before aid arrived.

Justin Rush of Lake Tapps Marine and Ski, located at the park, said he was helping a customer when he heard the calls for help. Because there is no phone in the snack shop, Rush sprinted to the park booth to look for a sheriff's deputy and then ran the park entrance, before running back.

According to East Pierce Assistant Chief Ed Goodlet, the initial call reached the department at 2:14 p.m. Aid was dispatched at 2:16 p.m., he said, and arrived on scene at 2:23 p.m.

Goodlet said he did not know how long it was before the call from 911 was sent to the department, but said the system was flooded with calls around that time because of the two sonic booms caused by a pair of military jets that were scrambled from Portland, Ore., after an unknown aircraft breeched the presidential airspace closed off for the president's visit to Seattle.

Goodlet said the CPR performed by Martinez may have made the difference, adding that the first four to six minutes are "vitally important."

"It makes a difference in the community and you're seeing a classic example of it with this," he said.

Martinez and Heyl both agreed that the importance of knowing CPR cannot be overlooked.

"Not enough people know how to perform it," Heyl said.

"By the time everybody came, we already had the baby alive," Martinez said.

"Everybody needs to learn CPR," she said.

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