How a West Dundee police officer saved a toddler who fell in a pool
Sarah Neeley has replayed the morning of Sept. 9 over and over again in her mind, each time reliving the panic she felt when her 2-year-old son, Becket, was found at the bottom of a friend's pool in West Dundee.
While friends called 911, her husband, Robert, pulled the toddler out of the water, and Sarah immediately started performing CPR. She had completed no more than three rescue breaths when officer John Scheffler ran into the backyard, scooped up Becket and rendered techniques that helped save his life.
Scheffler, a 20-year veteran with the West Dundee Police Department, was honored during a village board meeting Monday for his quick response and deep concern for Becket, now 3, that Saturday morning. He received the village's esteemed Lamplighter "Life Saving" Award, which was started by Village President Chris Nelson and is reserved for employees who demonstrate great acts of heroism.
"As police officers, we train and we train and we prepare, and sometimes that training and preparation pays off," Police Chief Andy Wieteska said. "It did on this particular day."
The Neeleys, who live in Bloomington, Illinois, were staying with friends in West Dundee when Becket walked out the back door of the house, wandered onto the deck and fell through the pool's solar cover, Wieteska said. After frantically searching for the toddler, Robert Neeley found his son at the bottom of the pool and pulled him out.
Authorities estimate Becket was underwater for about five minutes, Wieteska said. The situation was ruled an accident.
Scheffler was about three blocks away when he was dispatched to the house on South Street at 9:36 a.m. He got to the scene within 90 seconds, raced to the backyard and checked vital signs on the unresponsive toddler, who was lying on his back, according to village documents.
Becket's airway was clogged with vomit, Scheffler said, so he swept out the toddler's mouth with his finger, sat him up and patted his back to get him to throw up water and vomit. Scheffler then ran with Becket to the front of the house to wait for an ambulance and wrapped him in a blanket.
It was then that Sarah Neeley saw her son raise his hand in the air and heard him begin to cry.
"I wanted you to know how much I appreciated your quick response and obvious love and compassion for the life of others," she said in a letter to Scheffler. "My little boy is up and smiling because of you, and for that, I will be forever grateful."
Paramedics from the East Dundee Fire Protection District arrived at the house shortly after and provided Becket with additional care. They, too, were honored Monday before Scheffler was presented his award. The Neeleys were also there.
"The society we live in is very quick to condemn the actions of first responders," Scheffler said. "When somebody presents you with a commendation for your actions, it makes it that much more special."