“There are heroes among us who do not wear a uniform,” said Chula Vista Fire Capt. Jeff Ewert. “They step up with a helping hand until the cavalry arrives. They could be the difference between life and death.”
At an awards and recognition ceremony last week hosted by the city’s fire department, ordinary citizens were recognized, along with professionals, for their efforts to save a life.
Chula Vista resident Errol Basa was one of two citizens who saved the life of a young boy on July 6.
Basa, 44, was watching his two children with his wife at a busy community swimming pool in the Winding Walk neighborhood in Chula Vista.
“I was watching my kids and suddenly we heard a scream from a female, ‘Help me! Help me!” Basa said. “When I looked I saw that the lady was carrying a child — a boy. I ran toward her. I saw the child pretty much lifeless.”
Another kid had found the boy, approximately 3 years old, at the bottom of the pool.
When Basa got to the child, he checked for a pulse and found none.
Basa and a woman at the pool worked as a team to perform CPR on the child.
“Karina (Jones) was just another lady there with her kid,” Basa said. “She was kneeling beside me. I told her I needed 20 to 25 pumps.”
Basa said he cleared the airway and tilted the boy’s head.
“I gave two breaths and Karina gave another 20 to 25 pumps,” he said. “We repeated this process for about a minute and a half-plus.”
Meanwhile, another citizen was dialing 911.
“When I saw movement in the fingers and I heard gargling I turned him on his side … and he came about and started crying,” Basa said. “When he was breathing it was a relief.”
The fire department arrived approximately five minutes after the boy gained consciousness, Basa said.
“She said help and we helped — it came naturally,” Basa said. “The focus was on the kid and making sure the process was done.”
Basa retired from the Army after serving 21 years and said CPR is drilled into every solider; however, they are used to performing on adults, not children.
It was Basa’s wife who taught him how to perform CPR on a child.
Basa said the military taught him to always be mindful of his surroundings.
Basa said he’s since had “what if” conversations with his wife.
“We’re very protective,” he said. “We don’t lose sight of our kids. We always put safety first.”
Basa said that unfortunately he noticed the fire department and ambulance was at the pool again a few weeks ago.
“There should be a protocol I think for the swimming pool because in the city of Chula Vista there are a lot of incidents with drowning,” he said. “I think they should revisit that issue.”
Basa said although he wasn’t expecting to receive any credit, it was an honor to be recognized.
“In the Army we just do it,” he said. “It wasn’t necessary but I’m thankful and I’m grateful. I’m just glad the kid was fine.”
Basa said the irony is that he had no plans to go to the pool that day.
“I had a lot to do,” he said. “But my kids begged me to watch them swim. They convinced me to go.”
Others were honored for their efforts to save lives, including citizen Victor Acayan in September 2010 for saving a boy found at the bottom of a pool in Otay Ranch, as well as lifeguards, fire personnel and U.S. Border Patrol agents.