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Off-duty paramedic revives a Tampa toddler who nearly drowned across the street

Josh Schwade, a Hillsborough Fire Rescue paramedic for three months, knew what to do when the knock to the door came asking for help with a near-drowning.

BRIAN BLANCO

Josh Schwade, a Hillsborough Fire Rescue paramedic for three months, knew what to do when the knock to the door came asking for help with a near-drowning.

TAMPA — Josh Schwade opened his front door to the urgent knocking.

"A child almost drowned," his neighbor told him.

The two ran across the street to the side of a drenched, blue-lipped toddler lying on a pool deck.

Seventeen-month-old Oliver White had no pulse.

Schwade, 27, a paramedic with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue for just three months, didn't hesitate.

He administered CPR to the boy until a veteran Tampa police officer arrived and shared in the effort to revive the child. When on-duty paramedics arrived, they took the boy to University Community Hospital, where he remained Tuesday in critical condition.

Tampa police say the toddler's babysitters discovered the child unconscious in a backyard pool at 705 116th Ave. around 10:30 a.m.

The babysitters, a 32-year-old woman and her 49-year-old boyfriend, had been watching the boy and his 4-year-old brother as a favor to friends.

After four years without a vacation, the boy's parents had decided to head to a ranch in Montana, police said.

The babysitters told police they'd just stopped to talk in a bedroom for what seemed like five minutes.

At the time, they said, the younger boy was in a high chair eating breakfast and his brother was playing nearby.

In other parts of the house, two adults and three children ages 12, 15 and 16, were asleep.

Mid-conversation, the two babysitters noticed the house seemed unusually quiet, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

They returned to the kitchen and discovered that the 17-month-old was gone. After a brief search, they found Oliver in the backyard pool.

The boyfriend pulled the child from the water while the father of the female babysitter ran across the street to get Schwade.

When Schwade arrived, he said, someone was on the phone with 911. Schwade bent over the boy for about two minutes, administering four cycles of CPR.

"Come on, come on," Schwade urged the boy, repeating his name.

Tampa police Officer Nick Wilson soon joined in, the two of them taking turns.

"I just hope this kid pulls through," Schwade said a few hours later.

It's unclear how Oliver escaped the kitchen. Two back doors had been locked, while the front door was unlocked, McElroy said.

Police were able to track down Oliver's parents at the Montana ranch Tuesday afternoon and give them word of Oliver's condition. The boy is hooked up to respirators, McElroy said, and his pulse has recovered.

Wilson said he didn't want to talk about his role in helping revive the child, though McElroy said he'd described the incident as emotionally difficult.

"I was just doing my job," Wilson said afterward, waving reporters toward the off-duty Schwade.

Schwade's response was similarly low-key, shrugging off any suggestion that his actions were heroic.

"I would hope that someone else would do this for my child," he said. "In my training, it kind of comes natural."

McElroy said that while the near-drowning appears to be nothing more than "a tragic accident," it is still under investigation.

Police were withholding the names of the witnesses until the investigation was complete.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Off-duty paramedic revives a Tampa toddler who nearly drowned across the street 08/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 12:54am]

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