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Acts of bravery save 12-year-old girl's life
Elijah Johnson and Alex Chapman received hero awards from their school for being a major part in the rescuing of a 12-year old girl who was drowning near their home. Johnson ran to get help while Chapman used his Nerf gun as a tool to keep the girl above water. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaylee Clark)
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Acts of bravery save 12-year old girl's life

Posted 2/20/2014   Updated 2/20/2014 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/20/2014 - LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark.  -- Alex Chapman and Elijah Johnson are typical 9-year- old boys. They play, they fight, get dirty and tend to get into trouble every once in a while.

On the day after Christmas however, these average 9-year-olds became heroes when their actions initiated and aided in saving a 12 year-old girl from drowning in 2013.

It was Dec. 26. Chapman and Johnson went to play with their toy guns on a hill not far from their homes. This hill, which was a known area for the children of the neighbor to go play, has a very steep slope. Below the hill is a 15 foot man-made pond that belongs to a neighbor in the area.

Chapman said he and his friends would occasionally go the hill and slide down, but not when it rained or snowed because his mom and dad advised they could slip and get hurt.

This day, as Chapman and Johnson were enjoying their play time, chasing each other, they saw a girl on the other side of the pond with her younger sister.

As they approached the girl, they saw her sitting on the edge of the pond with a stick in her hand.
"She was sitting with a stick, trying to get a toy that was in the water," said Johnson.

Chapman and Johnson said they told the girl she shouldn't be doing that but she continued, so they walked away and continued playing.

"After we left, we heard a big splash and a loud, scary scream," said Chapman. "When we got back to the water the girl was swimming trying to stay up. I told Elijah to go get help."
Elijah said he was crying and praying and scared all at the same time. He said he didn't know if he should go or if he should stay and help get her out the water.

"I wanted to stay and help Alex, but I didn't know if I would be able to hold her because she's 12 and I'm 9, so I went to get help."

As Elijah ran about 100 feet to the nearest house and the little girl's sister ran to tell her mom, Chapman was creating a plan.

"I got my Nerf gun and stuck it in the water for her to reach it," said Chapman. "It just kept slipping, and she went under."

Chapman's father, Josh, who was also outside with Chapman's sister, wasn't too far away and could see the children playing in the distance, saw the little girl's mother screaming and sprinting toward the hill, so he followed.

Close-by neighbors started hearing the chaotic noise and headed toward the hill as well. By the time Chapman's father reached the pond, an older gentleman and a 15-year-old boy had already gotten in the water to look for her. They were unsuccessful.

"As I approached the hill, I began to take my shoes and socks off to prepare to get in the water," said Josh. "The only thing I was thinking about was, 'this little girl needs to be pulled out.'"

Josh recalls the difficulty, fear and urgency of finding the little girl.

"I went as low as I could go," he said. "The water was dirty, so I couldn't see. It was extremely cold... about 15 degrees. It seemed like all my breath was being sucked out of me. I had to come up for air."

When Josh came up for air, he said it was very tough trying to go back down.

"I came up and ripped an approximately 20-foot branch off a tree and was careful to feel around for her in the water," he said. "The older guy and 15-year-old, as well as other people were now looking for any signs that she might still be alive."

Josh said a lady who was looking saw an air bubble right below him and pointed it out to him.

"I jumped back in the water, grabbed her and flipped her over my shoulders so that her head would be above the water," he said.

Once Josh, a senior airman from the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron, got the girl out, he said he used his Self-Aid Buddy Care training and checked for a pulse, but there wasn't a pulse. He began performing CPR on the girl while they waited on the ambulance. Numerous bystanders called 911.

It took the ambulance about six minutes to respond, which is about how long Josh treated the girl.

"There was a shallow pulse right before the ambulance got there," said Josh. "If it wasn't for Elijah running to get help, and if it wasn't for Alex holding her up as long as he could, there could have been a different outcome. I am immensely proud of them."

The girl was released a week later and is doing fine according to Josh. She still plays with Chapman and Johnson but does not remember anything that happened that day.

Chapman and Johnson received Hero Awards from their school Arnold Drive Elementary. They both said they are proud of what they did even though it was very scary. The ability to remain calm under pressure and think logically are skills that these boys contain, skills that ultimately saved a life.

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