Kentucky Air Guardsman helps save child from drowning over Derby weekend

Story by Senior Airman Joshua Horton, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Staff Sgt. Matthew Weingarten, an operation management specialist in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron, was instrumental in saving a child’s life May 2 during a Kentucky Derby party in Simpsonville, Ky. Weingarten noticed the boy submerged in the deep end of a swimming pool and pulled him to safety. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky Air Guardsman was instrumental in saving a child’s life over Derby weekend after the boy nearly drowned in a backyard pool in Simpsonville, Kentucky.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Weingarten of the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron was attending a Kentucky Derby party at a private residence with more than 50 other people May 2 when he and his wife noticed the boy kicking his feet under the pool’s surface.

“I started getting closer to the pool,” Weingarten said. “He seemed perfectly fine. He was kind of feeling out for his buddy who was right next to him.”

But Weingarten noticed something was wrong when he got to the edge of the pool.

“I looked down and his back started to arch, and he started to look up,” Weingarten said. “His eyes were completely glazed over — his lips blue. The second I saw him start to look up, I jumped in. I grabbed him and pulled him over to the side and jumped out.

“Before I could even initiate CPR or anything to that extent, one of the adults ran over and helped me remove him from the pool, sat him up and gave him a slap to the back. His lungs were full. A lot of water came out, and he started responding — a little slow at first.”

After a nurse who was also attending the party informed the child’s parents that residual water could lead to pneumonia or even cause drowning at a later time, the parents rushed the boy to the hospital.

“In the end, I found out that he was removed just in time to where there was no brain damage,” Weingarten said. “There was so much residual water that they had to keep him at the hospital overnight. They gave him antibiotics to flush everything out. I received word a couple days later that he’s going to do just fine.”

Weingarten’s timely intervention was spurred by thoughts of his own child.

“I’m a father,” Weingarten said. “I have a two-year-old at home. (When) I looked down (into the pool), the second I saw his face, I saw my kid. It took a few minutes to shake. In fact, it took a few hours to shake afterwards — the idea of seeing my son’s face on this child. I didn’t even have to think about it; I jumped in with everything I had on me and pulled him out.”

Weingarten’s quick response comes as no surprise to Master Sgt. James Richey, his supervisor in the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

“I think it’s just kind of who Matt is,” Richey said. “Before he joined us, he did six months with us in Afghanistan, and we liked him so much that we sucked him into our unit. He’s just got a lot of personality and a lot of energy, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’d do something like this.”

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