Nikiski brother saves sister from drowning

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Four-year-old Olivia Mapes was playing in her yard on Wapiti Road in Nikiski with her bunnies Saturday afternoon -- just before she almost died.

'She screamed the whole way to the hospital. All that noise was better than no noise.'

-- Jean Mapes,

Olivia's mother

A friend of the family came by the house and saw that the newly adopted family pet, Dog, had fallen through the thin ice on the lake next to the house.

Olivia's mother, Jean Mapes, called for her 13-year-old son, Christopher, to run and save the dog in the shallow lake.

The water is not as deep at the side, so he could retrieve the dog, she said.

As he ran down to the lake, Jean noticed Olivia's pink raincoat in the water.

"I about had a heart attack," she said.

Christopher also noticed his sister as he got closer to the lake.

"I sent him, not dreaming his sister was in the water," she said. "He called out, 'It's Olivia, call 911.'"

He was calm through the whole thing, she said. "He did better than I did."

Jean called 911 and ran to the water's edge, entering the icy lake as Christopher, already in the lake, shoved his limp sister to her.

Then he went back for the dog.

Jean said she was hysterical as she flung Olivia over her shoulder and ran toward the house. This caused Olivia to start choking, and white foam to exit her mouth; a mixture of oxygen and water, Jean said.

At this point a neighbor, Larry Buss, whose son is friends with Olivia, heard Jean's screams and ran to help. He started CPR on the young child, who was blue and not breathing.

They removed her cold, wet clothes and covered her with hot ones from the dryer.

Nikiski Fire Department emergency responders arrived and found Olivia breathing, but her heart rate was down and her temperature was at 84 degrees.

"She was not in good shape," said Nikiski Fire Chief Dan Gregory.

Emergency medical technicians hooked Olivia to an IV and continued to warm her as they rushed her to Central Peninsula General Hospital.

What the family and neighbor did was good, Gregory said.

"It was a close one," he said.

Jean rode in the ambulance with Olivia.

"She screamed the whole way to the hospital," she said. "All that noise was better than no noise."

She could have been in the water up to 10 minutes, Jean said. The water was so cold it ended up being helpful to Olivia, so she did not suffer brain damage, she said.

Olivia stayed at the hospital Saturday night, even though she reoriented quickly, said Bonnie Nichols, hospital spokesperson.

"What a miracle," Nichols said.

Olivia went to the icy lake that day to help her dog that had fallen through the ice.

"She remembers all that happened," Jean said.

"She couldn't swim," she said. "She is going to learn, and she won't go on the ice."

The weather has not been cold enough for thick ice to form, Gregory warned.

"The ice is not safe to be on," he said.

Today, Olivia is going to the Nikiski Fire Department to give her responders a fruit basket, Jean said.

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