Pair who saved girl among citizen heroes

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2011 - 11:01 PM

They were among those honored by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.

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MaryAnn Wanjiru, 12, looked out a window at the Golden Valley Country Club on Tuesday at the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office citizen hero ceremony in Golden Valley. She and her cousin Samwel Ngatia, left, were honored for helping save a 6-year-old girl who was drowning.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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MaryAnn Wanjiru, 12, and Samwel Ngatia, 9, were pretty low key about getting hero awards Tuesday night for helping save a 6-year-old girl who nearly drowned in an apartment pool. "It's cool," said MaryAnn, a seventh-grader at Loveworks Academy in Golden Valley, who is known by family and friends simply as Ann.

"It's nice," said Sam, a fourth-grader at the same school.

Ann and 14-year-old Augustine Livingston, who helped her in the rescue, were among 13 people who received Citizen Commendation Awards from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office during a banquet at the Golden Valley Country Club. Sam received a badge and a certificate.

Two others received the Sheriff's Award of Merit. Augustine and his family were not at Tuesday's ceremony.

Ann and Sam were playing at the pool at the Crystal Village Apartments on July 2, as they did almost every day. Ann was the first to notice the little girl at the bottom of the pool in about 5 feet of water.

"I thought she was just staying there," Ann said, "and then I saw she wasn't moving. I went and picked her up."

Said Sam: "I was over on the deep end ... Then Ann started calling my name. Then I thought it was her who was drowning so I looked underwater. I saw a little girl. Ann, she had already grabbed her leg."

The children got the girl to the pool steps, where their neighbor Nancy Kitzman helped pull her out and started CPR. Augustine continued CPR while Kitzman ran to her phone to call 911.

Ann and Sam live at the apartment complex with Alice Ngatia, a nurse who is Sam's mother and Ann's aunt. The children call each other brother and sister; Ann calls her aunt "mom."

Both children said they didn't know the girl in the pool, but said that she was there visiting her own aunt. Sam said he later talked to the girl's mother.

"She said thank you for saving her little girl's life," Sam said.

Ngatia and her son moved to Minnesota eight years ago from Kenya. Ann has been here only a year and learned to swim with the help of Sam, said her mother, Elizabeth Wanjiru, a police officer in Nairobi, who came to see her daughter get the award.

"Ann has only been here for one year," Wanjiru said. "She didn't know how to swim when she got here. We are proud of them."

Ngatia said that on the day Ann helped pull the girl from the pool, "she came back to the house and was just shaking, telling me what happened. She kept on praying, in her heart, 'God, I hope this girl does not die.'"

Pat Pheifer • 612-673-7252

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