Veteran lifeguards aid Warrenton teenager in distress at Sunset PoolSEASIDE - Emergency response efforts apparently saved the life of a Warrenton High School student at Sunset Pool Thursday.

Ming Ni, 15, was listed in serious condition at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland today, where he had been flown by helicopter from Providence Seaside Hospital. His condition has been upgraded from critical.

"All of us have our attention on - and are sending out all of our good prayers to - Ming and the family, and look forward to his speedy recovery," said Mary Blake, general manager of the Sunset Pool. "He was talking and doing much better," Blake said family members told her Friday.

Information about what happened at the pool is still being assimilated, she said.

Ni was among 18 students in a physical education class that entered the water shortly after noon, with one teacher in the pool and one on the deck. They had an orientation at the pool and were in the water 12 to 15 minutes when two swimmers were suddenly bringing Ni to the side of the pool, Blake said.

For an unknown time he had been under water, she said. "We believe he is a swimmer; he had demonstrated skills. Having gone off a rope swing, he swam to the side of the pool.

"It didn't look like there was any kind of collision or injury involving another person," she added. "We don't know if he had any pre-existing medical condition."

The pool staff responded with its emergency action plan. As she immediately responded, the lifeguard on duty, Sharon Visser, blew the whistle to alert others, including backup lifeguard Chris Ford, as others on staff engaged the 9-1-1 emergency process, Blake said.

The call was reported at 12:36 p.m.

Both Visser and Ford are seasoned, veteran lifeguards, she said. Each has more than 17 years of experience.

The lifeguards determined there was no breathing and no pulse and initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Blake said. They maintained CPR and believed they detected a weak pulse as emergency responders with the Seaside Fire Department as well as Medix arrived to continue.

Joe Dotson, chief of the Seaside Fire Department, commended the resuscitation efforts by the pool staff. "They did a fine job."

A breathing passageway was restored, Blake said. "When he left the building he did have breathing and a pulse, and, as I understand it, by the good work of the medics he was stabilized" sufficiently to bring him to Providence Seaside Hospital.

After initial treatment there he was flown to Legacy Emanuel, according to Providence Seaside spokeswoman Leslie Shepherd.

Blake commended the teachers and Warrenton High School Principal Jennifer Pettit, who joined herself and Mike Marshall, the pool's public safety manager, in working with the students and demonstrating care about what they were experiencing. They were moved from the spectator area outside the pool for discussion.

"It was important to recognize their concerns and their perspectives."

School district officials declined to comment about Ming or the incident.

While swimming ordinarily is not approached in a worrisome way, part of the very purpose of education at the pool is "to maintain the greatest respect and need to be safe in an aquatic environment," Blake said. That means not only learning to swim but to respond effectively in the event of an emergency, she said.

"Was there anybody at fault? I don't believe so, as I continue to collect information," she said.

Pool patrons experienced a tragedy on June 12, 1997, when 15-year-old student athlete Andrew Nygaard collapsed on the deck at the pool because of cardiac problems. He later died.

Occasionally other emergency responses have occurred at Sunset Pool, but in Blake's 19 years with the district there has never been an incident with a patient in critical condition, she said.

Blake said in emergencies "everybody in the building has an important responsibility - the staff, the responders and other patrons," even in keeping clear so rescue crews can do their challenging work.

"I'm pleased with the extraordinary response from the kids, they really were great during the incident and afterward," she said. In addition to the swimmers who initially came the aid of Ni, the students helped in providing information about him, she said.

"They are part of this response; it just goes to show the importance of everybody's role."

Dotson agreed, saying the public is a key part of the effectiveness of the local emergency response system. Together, he said, "we can save lives."

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