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Rescuers recall boy, 12, who nearly drowned

A 12-year-old boy who nearly drowned in West Neck Beach on Sunday was barely breathing and going into shock after a relative pulled him from the water so rescuers could save his life, said a Suffolk police officer who responded to the scene.

"He had shallow, labored breathing," said Second Precinct Officer James Garside of the Advanced Life Support Medical Crisis Action Team, or MEDCAT, speaking of the 6:37 p.m. incident in Lloyd Harbor. "I began my assessment and directed people to dry him off because he was starting to shiver. He was going into shock."

The boy, whose identity police were withholding, was at the beach with his family when he showed signs of distress while swimming. A relative pulled him out of the water and Town of Huntington lifeguard Connor Donovan, 19, and a nurse, Denise McKay of Huntington, tended to him until help arrived.

"We put him in a standard position to keep him stable," Donovan said. "Not long after that, eventually the EMTs and police and the whole cavalry came and took over for us."

Garside assessed his blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels with Tom Hogan of the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department. The boy was barely conscious and had an elevated heart rate, Garside said. "His body was compensating for the near drowning," he said.

He was rushed to Huntington Hospital's shock trauma unit and moved to pediatric emergency -- a sign to Garside that he was "on the path to being out of the woods."

Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department Advanced Life Support provider Donna Gurtowski, EMT Travis Beach, and Suffolk Police Department MEDCAT director Dr. Scott Coyne, cared for the victim in the ambulance.

Garside said the boy went from having poor vital signs to being able to speak, though softly and with difficulty -- but alive and well. He was listed in stable condition at the hospital.

"It was very surreal," said Donovan, a student at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. "You train hard for this kind of situation. When you get to this moment you want to be mentally and physically ready to save someone's life. My body and mind were set upon what I had to do."

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