Monday, July 15, 2019

Brooklyn Lifeguards Save Teen's Life

By Maria Sievers, American Red Cross in Greater New York

On March 11, 2019, Lifeguard Derek Jennings and a group of high school students sprang into action and saved a life. For their lifesaving exploits, they were recognized by the American Red Cross. 

Jennings, from Long island, was the lifeguard during a swim class at Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory High School in Brooklyn when he noticed a 14-year-old student unresponsive underwater. Trained in American Red Cross Lifeguarding/First Aid/CPR/AED, Jennings took action immediately. Once he removed the body from the water and realized the student did not have a pulse and was not breathing, Jennings began administering CPR. 

Other students, including 18-year-old Carmelo Ortiz, helped prepare the scene and helped Jennings with the AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Emergency Medical Responders soon arrived and took the student to the hospital. 

Ortiz, from Brooklyn, was in class at the time of the accident. All of a sudden, he noticed that the lifeguard Jennings got very alarmed checking on a young student that was underwater. When Jennings got into the pool, Ortiz quickly set up the backboard to help stabilize the body and got ready to assist the lifeguard. He and the other students also helped open the unconscious student’s airway. 

This was the first time since learning CPR 17 years ago that Jennings had to resuscitate someone. For this act, Derek received the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award, one of the highest awards given by the organization to an individual or team of individuals who save or sustain a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course. 

Last June, Derek Jennings received the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award.
“I have children so all I think whenever I am watching children is ‘this could be my child,’” said Jennings. “I wasn’t nervous, I guess all the training I have had over the years helped me dealing with the situation. I felt like watching a movie. It was surreal in a way, like I was not participating, but watching it," he recalled. 

To Ortiz, that day served as a wake-up call that has made him more humble and aware of his surroundings especially in the water. 

“I was very alarmed at the moment and a bit shocked...What came to my head was everything I have learned,” says Ortiz. He had taken the Red Cross Lifeguard classes in spring of 2018. Because of his action, he received an American Red Cross certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action. 

Student Carmelo Ortiz wants to dedicate his life to help others

Looking back at what happened Jennings, reflected on the importance of not only being trained to save a life and but keeping those skills fresh: “It is not just the lifesaving training, it’s the general First Aid and CPR. And if it’s not regular, you lose the skills. The same if teaching a land sport like basketball or football, or music even. If you stop training, if you stop preparing, your skills levels are affected," he said. 

Derek Jennings has been a Lifeguard for over 17 years

To learn more about the Red Cross Lifeguard Training and Certifications visit

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