Bystanders answered the call to help rescue a 4-year-old girl from a central Minnesota swimming spot, and one of them came to the surface with her.
The drama unfolded on a warm late-summer Saturday in Quarry Park and Reserve in Waite Park, Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson said.
As of Monday evening, the girl — Hazel Dobbs — was in serious condition at St. Cloud Hospital.
A caller to 911 reported about 4 p.m. that the girl was missing and last seen in the water without a life jacket at quarry No. 11, and emergency responders scrambled to the scene. In the meantime, Earnestine Williams, of St. Cloud, was yelling that her daughter was drowning.
Nathan Sisk said that’s when his years of military and professional training in emergency response kicked in.
“I immediately shouted for everyone to get out of the [water],” said the 32-year-old Sisk, who spent 10 years in the Air Force as an emergency manager and is now three years into handling similar duties with Xcel Energy at the Monticello nuclear plant.
Sisk said he then ordered people on shore to scour the nearby paths in search of the girl, while his girlfriend checked the bathrooms.
“Next, I shouted into the crowd for any strong swimmers and asked them to begin searching,” Sisk, of Foley, continued. “I sent one person across to the other side of the lake, one across to the steps, and asked any others to begin searching the shallow area. We also began handing out any swim goggles we could find.”
Sisk said he scoured the docks and climbed to a high spot for a wider view, “when I heard a commotion and saw one of the swimmers had found her. I dove in and swam to shore as they were just getting CPR started.”
Gudmundson said it was Jason Weber, of Elk River, who found the girl in 10 to 15 feet of water and brought her to shore.
Sisk performed compressions on the girl while his girlfriend, Katherine Berryman, provided mouth-to-mouth breaths.
He kept up the compressions for about 5 minutes until another bystander relieved him before paramedics took over at the sprawling park that features many granite quarries and is a favorite summertime destination for swimmers, scuba divers and cliff jumpers.
Sisk said he could not have done what I did without “those around me who were ready and willing to help.”
The sheriff echoed those sentiments, saying, “Due to the quick reaction of strangers, the child had a pulse” when she was transported to the hospital.
Sisk, who has coached swimming and is trained in CPR for children, said his responsibilities in the Air Force included coordinating crisis situations, requiring that “you have to stay calm and be quick to react. ... You have to rely on those around you to help accomplish the task.”
“Having children of my own,” he said, “I am always prepared to react to protect them and keep them safe. I would always do the same for someone else if the need arises, regardless if I know them or not.”
He recalled that he may well have not been on hand to rally his fellow good Samaritans had he, his three children and his girlfriend gone to the quarry earlier in the day as initially planned.
“I am grateful that for whatever reason we decided to go to the lake later in the day,” Sisk said. “I truly believe God put me there at that time for a reason.”
Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report.