A 21-year-old Bellerose lifeguard was hailed a hero on the same day families in Douglaston Manor and Long Island mourned the losses of their children in July 4’s tragic drownings.
Christos Voulkoudis, 4, drowned in a relative’s pool in Douglaston Manor around 6 p.m., authorities said. He was rushed to North Shore University Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Police said they do not suspect criminality.
Earlier that day, a one-year-old boy in East Islip fell and drowned at around 12:40 p.m. after climbing the ladder of an above-ground backyard pool, officials said.
Then a capsized powerboat in Oyster Bay trapped and drowned three Suffolk County children — David Aurelino, 12, Harley Treanor, 11, and Victoria Gaines, 8 — during a nighttime Fourth of July fireworks show, police said.
There were 27 people on board — twice the reported number the boat could carry — and the incident, according to reports, may have been caused by overcrowding and powerful waves from nearby vessels on the water.
Voulkoudis’ pool drowning is the first in Queens this summer, but there were 49 deaths citywide due to accidental drowning and submersion between 2006 and 2010 in natural waters or pools, said a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The vast majority of those deaths, 76 percent, occurred in natural waters. But officials stressed the need for parents to stay vigilant while supervising children in any body of water.
“Most children slip under the water — and it’s silent — in as little as 20 seconds, the time it takes to send a text message or finish an article if you’re reading,” said Mary O’Donoghue, aquatic specialist for the YMCA of Greater New York. “Those 20 seconds you could prevent and be right there.”
According to New York’s Department of State’s Division of Code Enforcement & Administration, swimming pools installed, constructed or substantially modified after December 14, 2006, must be equipped with an approved alarm capable of detecting a person entering the water at any point on the surface of the pool.
Barriers completely surrounding the pool must also be at least 4 feet high, state law requires.
Meanwhile, a Fourth of July disaster was averted thanks to a clear-headed, speedy lifeguard who sprang into action and saved an 11-year-old boy from drowning in a crowded Glen Oaks pool.
Emily Harms, a 21-year-old Bellerose resident, said she was off watch-duty, sitting at a sign-in table doing paperwork at the Royal Ranch pool, when all of a sudden she heard someone screaming her name.
She saw a mother jump into the pool and pull her lifeless son out of the shallow end of the water. Since she was closer to the victim than the lifeguard on watch duty, Harms said she sprinted toward the pair without thinking.
“He was blue and he wasn’t breathing. He didn’t have a pulse,” said Harms, who began administering two sets of CPR with the backup of two fathers who also ran over to help. “He started getting sick and throwing up, but that was a good sign because he started breathing afterward.”
The boy was still unconscious and was rushed by EMTs to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Harms said, where he is expected to make a full recovery.
Despite all the newfound attention, she said she does not expect the praise.
“This was just part of the job,” she said. “I appreciate everything, but I’m just happy that it had a good ending. It could have been a lot of worse.”