Buried alive at park, baby girl is saved

Quick action by a 10-month-old girl's mother, her cousin and a stranger, along with the use of infant CPR on the baby, helped save the little girl's life on Saturday after she was buried alive in a frightening experience along the shores of the Rafferty dam near Mainprize Park.

Halbrite resident Danielle Johnston was out on a walk with her baby Kate, seven-year-old son Dillon, and her cousin Oscar Roettger and his girlfriend Dakota Twist, enjoying the warm sunny weather as they walked near the buffalo jump cliffs located just northwest of Mainprize Regional Park.

The sun was really hot, so we thought we'd go down and cool ourselves a bit near the lake. It was a grassy area and didn't look dangerous at all. I was holding the baby, and the cliff just fell on me and hit me on the back of my head. The force of the cliff falling pushed her out of my arms and it knocked my to my knees, and she (Kate) was completely covered, said Danielle on Monday, in describing how the incident occurred.

She explained she immediately started digging in the heavy wet sand with her hands, and screamed at her cousin to come help her dig; as they began, Danielle spotted a boat close to shore with two fishermen, and she yelled at them for help as she continued digging.

He just came right over and in a matter of seconds he was digging too, and we uncovered her head and pulled her out. I got the sand out of her face and mouth, and gave her CPR, and then she started to cry. It was like a weight was lifted when I heard her crying, said Danielle.

The fisherman, Jeff Adams, a resident at Mainprize Park, explained he was out fishing with Ted Erickson, a friend from Midale, and had just turned his boat motor off when he heard Danielle screaming for help.

I first thought one of her kids had fallen off the top of the embankment. We reeled our lines in and headed over. She was screaming that her baby was buried; she was going, Help me dig! Help me dig!', said Adams, who is a retired police officer.

He added he was impressed that Danielle had CPR training, and knew exactly what to do once they were able to get the baby out, estimating the baby girl was covered by about a foot and a half of heavy wet sand, and it took about four minutes from when he arrived on shore to help her dig.

She said she knew what to do; the baby was unconscious and didn't seem to be breathing. It took her about half a minute and she got her baby breathing again, said Adams, adding later, That mother is the hero. When we pulled the baby out, she swung into action with her CPR training and displayed amazing calmness and knew what her strategy was. She got that baby breathing; I and my fishing partner just happened to be there and we helped.

Once they determined the baby was all right, Adams had Danielle and her family get in the boat, while Erickson phoned 911 on his cell phone. The boat ride took about five or six minutes to get down to the marina at Mainprize Park.

Danielle said once they reached the dock, the ambulance hadn't yet arrived and there were people milling around on the dock, but no one seemed to know what to do. She spotted an off-duty Sgt. Trever Hughes of the Weyburn Police Service and asked for his help while they waited for the ambulance. He provided a blanket and a pair of shorts for Danielle, and they met the ambulance at the park gate.

Danielle, Kate and Dillon were transported to the hospital, and it was determined Kate suffered no injuries as a result of her ordeal. As Danielle explained, Kate is a very happy baby and she has returned to her normal self without any apparent after-effects of the experience.

She wasn't under long enough to have any neurological damage, but it felt like forever. There was heavy wet sand and she wasn't breathing; it was a miracle, it really was, she said, adding she hopes people learn the value of CPR training after an incident like this.

She had first learned CPR while in high school, and upgraded her skills more recently through Marcel Roy, as she works as a school bus driver.Danielle said her cousin, along with Adams, were both heroes in helping dig out the baby, and noted her cousin's girlfriend helped take care of Dillon, who was very upset and distraught that his baby sister might be hurt.

Afterwards (Dillon) told me that if anything would've happened to his sister, a piece of his heart would've died. That's pretty deep feeling for a seven-year-old boy. We're just so happy our baby is alive and is okay, she said.

Her husband, Trevor, had been up north fishing on the day in question, and came home to find his family was all right. It was the best Father's Day present he's ever had, said Danielle.

Adams noted that the area where the family was walking is a popular area for people to visit, as historically it was an area where aboriginals ran buffalo over a cliff, so many people go searching there for arrowheads and buffalo bones.

Those cliff banks are just treacherous with all the rain that we've had. The particular spot where she was, the embankment was a good 10-12 feet high, he said, noting there is continual erosion of the banks in that area, with some parts splitting away, while in some places it just slides down in an avalanche fashion. He said it seemed that where this incident happened, the bank split away and fell over on Danielle and her baby.

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