NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A 12-year-old boy who was taken to the hospital after his leg was apparently sucked into the suction line of a lazy river at a North Myrtle Beach resort Monday night, and he was held underwater for about six minutes, according to witnesses. His condition is still not known.
The incident happened at about 9:45 p.m. Monday at the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach, according to city spokesman Pat Dowling.
The boy was playing in the resort's lazy river, where a 3-foot by 3-foot grate covering a 6-inch suction line that is part of the lazy river had been removed, Dowling stated. One of the boy's legs was sucked into the suction line, holding him underwater for what witnesses said may have been 6 minutes or so.
A woman who tried to help rescue the boy said she was swimming with her family in one of the hotel pools at Avista Resort when another boy called to her for help. Although she did everything she could to try and save him, she still feels like it wasn't enough.
"When I jumped in the water to try and pull him out, his lips were already blue," said Tiffany Perez, a witness who tried to rescue the boy.
Perez said she and a man who attempted to help her pull the boy out of the water were unable to free him after she said his left leg was stuck in a suction line.
"The maintenance worker told me that he shut the pumps off, but it does not happen right away, so it takes a while for the system to actually shut down," Perez said, adding that first responders got to the scene moments later and worked fast. Within about a minute, she said, they pulled the boy out. His leg was blue and purple.
"The gentleman that helped me - his wife, she ran up to the front desk with her one-year-old to get help and she actually called 911 also," Perez said. "And I was also trying to look after her kids as well, and trying to keep them - so I was absolutely terrified."
Police performed CPR on the boy and detected a slight pulse, Dowling said. The boy was transferred to a nearby hospital, and his parents were with him Monday night.
"I did what I could do," Perez said. "It still doesn't feel like it was enough. It really doesn't. I still, all night I haven't slept because I feel like there's something more I could've done."
Perez said her kids were in the lazy river earlier that day, which also makes this situation scary for her. She said the first responders there Monday night worked so hard and so fast to get this boy out of the water.
Ted Hucks, President at Hucks Pool Company, said grates are used as protection to help prevent someone from getting stuck underwater.
"The grates are designed so that the flow rate doesn't exceed one and a half feet per second, so that it can't hold a person's body to the floor of the pool," Hucks explained.
Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control said they are investigating this incident and obtained inspection records that show two unannounced inspections for both the indoor and outdoor lazy rivers in Avista Resort were in full compliance with DHEC regulations.
Jim Eggen, a representative for Avista Resort, said the resort can't comment at this time, but he said it's sad what happened and they just want to help the family.