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NU swimmers save a life

While sitting through 30 hours of lifeguard training last spring, 16-year old Drew Harris doubted he’d ever witness a near drowning once he became certified.

Tuesday morning, the competitive swimmer learned how quickly these life-saving skills could be tested as he rescued 20-year old Danny Harkins while on duty at the Nevada Union High School pool.

Harkins, who has Down Syndrome, had been plunging for a diving ring when Harris saw bubbles rise from the 20-year-old’s sinking body. Harris said he “kicked on autopilot” and instinctively performed the rescue skills he learned just a few months before.



“As I was bringing him up, I noticed he was pale, his lips were blue, and he wasn’t breathing,” Harris said. “I knew I was going to have to do CPR.”

Harris gave Harkins two rescue breaths and three chest compressions. Within minutes, Harkins started breathing again, Harris said.




“(Harris) did the right thing; it was absolutely textbook,” Nevada County Fire Chief Tim Fike said.

Fike was among the emergency medical personnel who responded to the 911 call about the near drowning.

“This could have easily ended in death,” Fike added. “Harris is truly a hero.”

Also on duty Tuesday morning were Nevada Union junior Jon Huffman-Eddy and senior Cole Voors. Huffman-Eddy helped pull Harkins from the pool while Voors cleared the rest of the swimmers out of the pool.

All three of the students had earned their lifeguard certification from the American Red Cross Association.

“It was a team effort,” Huffman-Eddy said. “All three of us played a part.”

Harkins was one of 50 people swimming at Nevada Union that morning as part of a continuing Champion Mine Special Education program that brings disabled students to the Nevada Union pool several days a week, Harris said.

Harkins was taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital where he was monitored last night to make sure no fluids had entered his lungs, his mother, Louann Harkins, said.

Danny Harkins’ father, Daniel Harkins, plans to present Harris with a placard to show his appreciation for rescuing his son.

“My son is alive thanks to Drew,” Harkins said. “He did us and the community a service and is a hero for it.”


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