A 3-year-old girl from Michigan is alive thanks to a quick-thinking local man.

“During the actual event, I didn’t have much time to think — I just went for it,” Ian Pitts said. “It wasn’t until after I got back to my room that afternoon that it really hit me what just happened. It shook me up quite a bit. All I could think was: That could have been my daughter.”

In April, Pitts, who works at London’s Kroger, was on vacation with his family in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“My fiancee, mother-in-law and I were staying at the Landmark Inn and we had just gotten back from the beach,” he said.

Rather than going back to their room, they decided to head to the hotel pool for a dip. There, they met the Pierscinskis from Michigan who were also staying at the hotel. Pitts and crew were ready to leave the pool when his mother-in-law discovered she’d misplaced her cash.

“We were looking for it and I heard a scream,” Pitts said.

He looked over to see the Pierscinski father pulling his daughter, Gracie, from the pool by her arm.

“She was blue all over,” he said. “I could tell she had drowned.”

Pitts rushed over and assessed the girl. She had no pulse and her lips were purple. Pitts started administering CPR and “by the third set of compressions, she was coughing up water,” he said.

She continued coughing and paramedics arrived soon thereafter. They took her to the hospital to make sure the chlorine hadn’t damaged her lungs.

The Pierschinskis later pieced together that Gracie had gotten out of the pool after swimming around with her floaties. Tired from the exercise, the girl took off her water wings, wrapped herself in a towel and went to lay on a lawn chair. But after her sister beckoned her to the side of the pool, she got up and went to say hello to her sibling, who had, in the meantime, gotten distracted by other swimmers; the pool was packed. Gracie apparently fell in the water, with no one aware of what had happened.

Gracie made a full recovery after the rescue and the family returned to the hotel the next day to thank Pitts.

“They gave me a thank-you card and a gift certificate from Applebee’s,” Pitts said. “And Gracie wanted to tell me ‘High 5.’”

Pitts said one of the things that amazed him most about the incident was the coincidental timing of his CPR training. He’d just received it at work in December and had been talking about it just the week before with his mother-in-law.

“I never thought I’d have to use it,” he said.

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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