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Girl, rescuer reunited at park

July 13, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

During an emotional reunion Saturday morning, a Hagerstown teenager received heartfelt thanks from the family of a Rosedale, Md., child she saved from drowning.

The last time Brittany Smith held Sequoia Rantin, 3, the child was unconscious after nearly downing at Greenbrier State Park. When Brittany held the child in her arms Saturday, Sequoia was not only conscious but kissing the cheeks of the teenager her family considers a guardian angel.

Without Brittany's help on June 28, Sequoia would be dead today, family members said Saturday.

Greenbrier State Park lifeguards, with the aid of doctors and nurses who were visiting the park, revived Sequoia after Brittany helped pull her from the water.

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Sequoia's family met Brittany's family at Cunningham Falls State Park on Saturday to thank their daughter's rescuer. They gave Brittany balloons and a cake that read, "Our angel, Brittany."

The families talked about the experience that brought them together, which Brittany said seemed like a movie with events seeming to happen in slow motion. The memories brought goose bumps.

Sequoia was swimming with friends at Greenbrier that day when something went wrong.

Then, Sequoia said, "I was drinking all the water."

She yelled for someone to come help her but nobody came, she said.

She does not remember what happened next, her mother said.

Brittany said she was swimming at the park when a friend pointed at Sequoia and said, "I think that little girl is dead."

As she swam over to check on the child, Brittany said, all she could see above the water were the pink, yellow and white rolls in her hair; the rest of her was under the water.

When Brittany reached Sequoia, she saw the child was not breathing and her arms were limp, she said.

She said she lifted Sequoia up and carried her to the shore. Brittany said she knows CPR but others took over the rescue effort while nearby an unknown man stood praying.

Sequoia's mother, Vernea, said she thanked the Lord that there were doctors, nurses and others to assist.

"It was a blessed experience that ... there were so many qualified people," she said.

Sequoia was taken by helicopter to Children's Hospital in Washington, where she was treated. She was released later in the week with no permanent injuries, her family said.

Prior to the rescue, Brittany planned to become a cosmetologist. Now she aspires to be a nurse.

The families talk regularly, with the Rantins calling Brittany daily at times.

Sometimes Sequoia gets on the phone with Brittany and says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Brittany said that elicits tears .

The Rantins have a family tradition of going to Greenbrier during the summer to go swimming. But they - and Brittany - said they do not want to return to Greenbrier while the memories of the near-drowning are fresh.

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