Liam Spellissy is a shy 9-year-old. Ask him questions and you get answers typical of someone preparing for the fourth grade.
Were you nervous?
Are you tired of all the attention?
But Liam's quick thinking on May 4 has others singing his praises. His composure probably saved the life of 2-year-old Rhett Baker.
Here's how Tricia Baker, Rhett's mother, recalls what she says was a "terrifying few seconds."
The Bakers, a Clearwater family of six, were visiting the Spellissy family in Largo that afternoon.
While the older children were playing in the back yard and in the pool, Baker was tending to Rhett and his 10-month-old sister in the house. Guests were using a sliding glass door to come in and out of the house.
Rhett was just 2 feet away from his mother, who was holding her daughter, when someone forgot to close the glass door.
"Rhett dashed through the door," said Baker. "I was screaming, but it was like it was happening in slow motion. I thought once he got to the edge of the pool he would stop."
Rhett didn't. He landed in the pool face first.
The older children froze in horror, except for Liam.
The Cub Scout immediately lay on the ground by the pool and grabbed the toddler's shirt. He then flipped Rhett face up until he could be pulled from the pool by Rhett's father, Todd.
"He was so calm and responsible," Baker said. "He acted like a scout. We were crying, and I was hysterical because it was a dramatic couple of seconds."
For his calm but quick action, Liam was honored by Largo Fire Rescue on Tuesday during a Largo City Commission meeting.
"Liam acted appropriately," said Largo Chief Michael J. Wallace. "He did everything right."
A member of Cub Scout Pack 455 at Clearwater's St. Cecelia Interparochial School, Liam had learned just two weeks earlier about saving someone who is in distress in a pool. He learned that people who aren't strong swimmers should not attempt a water rescue.
"I'm glad to see him take action and that no one was hurt," said Greg Brown, Cub master for Pack 455 and a park supervisor with the Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts Department.
According to a 2001-2005 report by the Florida Department of Health's Office of Injury Prevention, Florida has the largest percentage of U.S. drowning deaths for children ages 1 to 4. On average, there were 465 drowning deaths in Florida every year and an average of 566 hospitalizations for near drownings. Florida's overall drowning death rate was twice the national rate in 2001-2004, the report said.
Liam is pleased that he did the right thing. He stood before city commissioners Tuesday and smiled as the story of his good deed was recounted. His mother, Donna, a nurse, stood nearby and videotaped the event.
"He was a first responder," said Donna Spellissy. "I was pretty surprised at his actions. He did a good job, and I'm pretty proud of him."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or [email protected]