NEW GLOUCESTER — Emergency responders are crediting bystanders who trained in CPR with saving the life of a 4-year-old Portland boy who nearly drowned Monday afternoon while swimming in Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester.

The boy was swimming at a floating dock about 150 feet off Outlet Beach wearing inflatable armbands.

The boy, whose name was not released, was listed in stable condition Tuesday at a local hospital.

Janelle Alpizar of Lewiston said she was about to jump into the water off the float in the midafternoon when she noticed a woman cradling her young son. The woman repeated the boy’s name, asking whether he was joking.

Alpizar asked the woman if there was a problem. The woman said her son was “acting funny” and said she wasn’t sure why he was unresponsive.


Alpizar told the woman to let her to hold the boy, believing he might respond to a stranger.

“Then we realized he was not acting out,” Alpizar said.

“His tongue was kind of bulging out a little bit,” she said. “His eyes were closed.”

At that point, a group of women approached to ask whether there was a problem.

One of the women, who said she was a nurse, took over from Alpizar.

The boy’s breathing was irregular, Alpizar said, and she asked whether she should call 911.


As she started to swim back to the beach for her phone, she heard a woman shout from the float: “He’s not breathing.”

Alpizar watched as one of the women began chest compressions on the boy. Another woman was at the boy’s head.

“They are the ones that brought him back to life,” Alpizar said.

Brittany Waterhouse of Casco had been on the beach with her 4-month-old daughter, and her husband was on the float with their two sons.

The 4-year-old boy on the float had wanted to jump off. Ryan Waterhouse had offered to catch him, but his mother had said she would simply lower him into the water. He wore a flotation device.

“He was under the water for maybe a second and she pulled him right up,” Waterhouse said. After that, the boy wasn’t acting like himself.


Ryan Waterhouse called his wife on the beach, knowing she had CPR certification.

Waterhouse, a certified nursing assistant at a Portland hospital, swam to the float and asked whether the boy was breathing.

Waterhouse and two other women began to administer CPR to the boy, who had gone limp and had no pulse.

Waterhouse said she didn’t remember how long they worked on the boy.

“He started to kick his legs and grab at his throat like he was choking, like he wanted to breathe but couldn’t,” she said.

Nicole Hall, also a CNA, was stationed at the boy’s head trying to clear his airway and performing mouth-to-mouth breathing.


“We were having trouble getting an open airway,” Hall said. “But we were able to get some breaths into him.”

After a couple of rounds of CPR, she said, “We thought we had him back a couple of times, but then he seemed to fade away again.” They continued their efforts, Hall breathing into the boy’s mouth while Waterhouse and another woman, identified as Heather Williams of Lewiston, took turns doing chest compressions.

“He finally was definitely awake and started crying,” Hall said. They handed the boy over to his mother.

The boy and his mother were lowered onto a raft and taken to shore where town rescue crews were waiting with an ambulance.

“I am so thankful that it turned out OK,” Waterhouse said. “His mom – it was literally like a nightmare – there was so much terror in her voice.”

“This was truly, truly just a freak accident,” Hall said. “If his mother didn’t react as quick as she did, this could have been a horrible outcome.”


“It’s a good thing everybody was where they were that day,” she said. “It had the best outcome it could have had, but there are a lot of tragic accidents that could be avoided if everybody was well-educated in CPR.”

New Gloucester Fire and Rescue Capt. Scott Doyle issued a statement Tuesday to report the incident, praising the efforts of all of the women who responded to the emergency.

“We are thrilled for the work of the beach goers and bystanders who jumped in to help, immediately,” he wrote. “A few more seconds could have made a very grim result. Everyone did what they had to do and it was all the right judgments.”

The boy was reported as breathing by the time emergency medical services arrived at the beach, Doyle wrote.

“Now is the time to remind people that knowing CPR can and will save lives,” he wrote. “If they are not CPR trained, they need to know it. They are teaching it by age 10.”

Press Herald Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this story.

Christopher Williams can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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