Fire District 6 honors teenage lifeguard's action

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Lifeguard Carter Coval got an award Tuesday night for rescuing a 5-year-old boy from drowning at a Hazel Dell pool in December.

Fire District 6 Chief Jerry Green lauded Coval, 17, for being calm in a stressful situation and using his water rescue skills. During the district's fire commissioner meeting at the Hazel Dell fire station, Green recalled what happened that Friday night, Dec. 27, when firefighters were called to Lakeshore Athletic Club for a near-drowning.

Coval had seen a boy floating facedown in the pool. He asked another swimmer to nudge the boy, and when the boy didn't respond, Coval jumped in to pull him out of the water. The boy was unconscious, had blue lips and was foaming at the mouth and nose.

While another lifeguard called 911, Coval found that the boy didn't have a pulse and wasn't breathing. Coval performed CPR and then performed rescue breathing after he noticed the boy had regained his pulse. When the boy started to cough up fluids, Coval put him in a recovery position on his side. The boy, named Luke, regained consciousness about a minute before paramedics arrived.

Luke recovered well and wanted to go swimming again that weekend. His parents said Tuesday that they will invest in swimming lessons for the boy.

Coval's parents and Luke's family clapped as Coval accepted the award.

Coval has been working as a lifeguard at the athletic club for about a year. He said the experience made him realize how temporary life can be.

"I'm glad we're here to celebrate," he said Tuesday.

Coval, a high school senior at King's Way Christian School, plans to study kinesiology, the science of human movement, next year at Colorado Mesa University. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Tom Coval, a Vancouver Fire Department captain.

Firefighters who attended the award presentation noted that a firefighter can go through their entire career without saving a life — making Coval's jump start remarkable.

"It was nice knowing the training paid off," Coval said.

After receiving the award, Coval left for further lifeguard training.