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Teen and dad save boy from pool drowning

A day after the pool was opened, 11-year-old Aaron Hopewell could not resist the urge to test the water. Despite being told to wait for his older brother, Aaron and his sister wanted to go swimming Wednesday.

There was just one problem. He did not know how to swim.

The child reportedly fell in. His sister tried frantically to reach him by using a long aluminum pole, but the boy was near the bottom of 5 feet of water. Crystal Black, 17, who lives across from the pool, jumped in and brought Aaron to the surface.

"He didn't have a pulse, and he was not breathing," said Crystal's father, Jim Montgomery, who gave the boy CPR. "I got him to spit up water, and his heart started beating."

The boy was taken to St. Petersburg General Hospital and later transferred to the intensive care unit at All Children's Hospital, where he remained late Wednesday. His condition was not released.

His near-drowning came as health officials are urging parents and property owners to take precautions for their pools. With the onset of spring comes the regular reminders to watch children carefully and be prepared for any accidents.

At one time, drowning was the No. 1 killer of young children in Florida, and Tampa Bay led the nation in drownings. Just this week, a 6-year-old St. Petersburg boy fell into the green waters of an abandoned pool and drowned.

Aaron Hopewell almost became a statistic Wednesday.

His mother had told him and his sister, 14-year-old Tanisha, to stay away from the pool at the Tanglewood Apartments on 52nd Terrace N. But the children were impatient; they could not wait for their older brother to get home and take them.

"I was teaching him how to swim yesterday," said Andrian Hopewell, 15. "I guess he was trying to follow what I was teaching him."

When the boy did not come to the surface, his sister began to panic. Crystal Black, who lives near the pool, said she was walking by when another child asked if she had a telephone.

"I didn't know what was going on," Crystal said. "I looked over, and he was at the bottom of the pool."

Jim Montgomery, her father, had gone into their apartment to turn on the oven. He walked back outside to see Crystal dive into the water.

Montgomery, a former emergency medical technician who is now a supervisor at a rehabilitation center, said the boy had turned blue and appeared to be having convulsions. He gave him CPR until medics arrived. Afterward, with the boy's goggles still on the pool's bottom, Montgomery and his daughter were modest about their role in saving the boy.

"Ain't no heroes here," he said, tears in his eyes. "We just did what God wanted us to do."

While one family gave thanks, another dealt with a loss.

The family of a 6-year-old St. Petersburg boy who drowned Sunday has set up a trust fund to pay for his funeral expenses.

Dontrale Cooper, who lived in Sandalwood Apartments on 37th Street S, and several friends rode bicycles to the pool at Hidden Cove Apartments on 34th Ave. S.

Dontrale was playing near the edge when he fell in. The pool has been abandoned for months; signs posted nearby warn people to keep out.

Donations should be made to South Trust bank, 150 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Donations to the Dontrale Cooper Memorial Fund (No. 25550057) can be made in person to that branch or by mail.

_ Staff writer Kelly Ryan contributed to this report.

Pool safety tips

Instruct babysitters about pool hazards and the use of protective devices. Emphasize the need for constant supervision.

Never leave an unsupervised child near a pool or spa.

Do not use flotation devices as substitutes for adult supervision.

If a child is missing, check the pool first. Scan the whole pool.

Enroll children 3 and older in swimming lessons. Do not consider them drown-proof just because they have taken lessons.

Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Babysitters and other caretakers, including grandparents and siblings, also should know CPR.

Keep rescue equipment and a telephone by the pool, with emergency telephone numbers and safety rules posted nearby.

Remove toys and other play equipment from a pool not in use because they could attract children.

Install a four-sided fence to separate a pool from a house. Make sure the gate lock is 54 inches high so children under 4 cannot reach it.

Never prop open pool gates.

Install an alarm that sounds an alarm when doors leading to the pool are opened.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Spa and Pool Institute and Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition