APEX, N.C. (WNCN) — A Willow Spring toddler is alive and well after nearly drowning in an Apex pool this weekend.
His mother thanks the quick thinking of strangers and a young relative for saving her son’s life.
Karen Molina took her kids, including her two-and-a-half-year-old son, Noe, to an apartment complex pool to swim with relatives.
“Since we got there he didn’t want to swim, so I took his ‘floaties’ out and he just sat on the edge of the pool,” she said.
Molina then fixed a bottle for her one-year-old daughter, and when she looked back up, she no longer saw Noe.
Noe’s nine-year-old cousin, Zully Sandoval, did see what happened and rushed to help.
“He was laying down sideways and before he even closed his eyes, I picked him up and pulled him out of the water,” she said.
“I felt like he was already dead,” Sandoval added.
Despite that feeling, she worked to get him out of the pool by herself – never thinking about her own safety, she said.
Molina said she was scared and started screaming.
“I got him in my hands and he was purple,” she said, adding he was cold and not breathing.
“I thought his life was gone,” she added.
A man at the pool, Carlos Rodriguez, stepped in to help.
“He put him on the floor and he just said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. He’s gone’,” Molina said.
Then, Rodriguez’s wife, Melissa, gave Noe CPR, eventually releasing the water from his small body.
“I thank God all day of my life and Melissa that she saved his life,” Molina said.
Sandoval also expressed gratitude.
“I would say, ‘Thank you so much. You made my cousin come back alive and I’m really happy’,” she said.
Apex Police gave the Rodriguez family and Sandoval “Chief Coins” in recognition of their life-saving efforts.
“She’s just a kid and a big, big hero,” Molina said about Sandoval.
Sandoval’s cousin, Diego Fernandez, helped translate for Sandoval’s mother, Brenda Fernandez, during an interview with CBS North Carolina.
“Her mom is like, she can’t believe how she did it all by herself,” he said.
“By the time she would have gone to get help, it could have gone to a worse situation.”
Sandoval credits swim lessons she received during summer camp.
“It’s important to learn how to swim because if you don’t know and you just want to get in the water, you can drown,” she said.
EMS treated Noe and Apex Police responded.
After a night in a hospital, doctors released Noe in good health.
“I can’t describe what it means for me. I have my son here with me,” Molina said.
She has advice for other parents: “Don’t let you child, not even a second, alone. Don’t take your eye off of them, for not even one second.”
Molina said Noe’s next trip to a pool will be for swimming lessons.