GLASGOW – When David Burnett, a Glasgow Fire Department firefighter, was preparing to grill out June 3 in Panama City Beach, Fla., after his friend’s wedding, he didn’t expect his day would end in saving a 3-year-old from drowning after she fell into a pool.
Burnett, 27, of Tompkinsville, who was sworn into the GFD in January, expected only to cook out and have a good time, he said in an interview with the Daily Times on Friday. He and his friends walked across the street from the house where they were staying and asked the neighbors to borrow their grill. Little did he know those same neighbors would later call for help.
Burnett, who said he has hearing problems, said he didn’t hear the family screaming but his friend did.
“I could tell something was wrong, and (my friend) took off running,” Burnett said. “I followed him. We hit the privacy fence around the pool and he couldn’t get over it, so I went over it. When I did, I saw the little girl next to the pool. She was blue, wasn’t breathing.”
The little girl was Lily Pitts, who was vacationing with her family from Clanton, Ala., when she accidentally went into the pool.
“The daddy asked if I knew CPR, and I said yes, I do,” Burnett said. “I said, ‘Call 911, make sure you call 911.’ ”
“I guess it took about two minutes to resuscitate her,” Burnett said. “But I got her breathing.”
B.J. Pitts, Lily’s father, told the Daily Times on Friday that he was at the grocery when the accident happened. When Pitts stepped through the door, his sister ran into the house and told him his child had drowned.
“I went sprinting around back and saw him resuscitating her,” Pitts said. “This dude was calm as a cucumber. He was cool as could be, and that was very settling.”
Pitts said the family was lucky Burnett was there.
“It looked like he had done it a million times. I would have thought he had, by the way he acted,” he said. “I got a chance to talk to him after the fact, I told him thanks. I mean, I owe him a lot. A lot, to say the least.”
Pitts said he doesn’t know what to say to a person who saves a life.
“(Burnett) didn’t really ask for any thank-yous or anything,” Pitts said. “He was pretty humble about it. They said he ran around there and jumped that six-foot fence, just scaled it like it was nothing.”
Lily’s uncle, Kyle Sims, had actually begun CPR when Burnett took over.
“We’re very proud of David and hope he gets a lot of accolades for the work he did that day,” Sims said. “He really helped out a lot. Thankfully he was there to help us take care of her, and was able to get her back up and running around. She’s good as gold today. It’s really a miracle.”
Pitts said the incident occurred about 5:30 p.m. and by midnight, Lily was able to communicate.
“After she started crying in the ambulance, she basically didn’t stop crying. She would fall asleep, wake up and just cry,” he said. “She recovered quick, though. She had a conversation with her mom right after. She came around fast. She couldn’t have been under that long with him being there that quick. That was huge.”
Burnett said “you just do what you can” in situations like that.
“I didn’t even think, honestly. I heard them screaming, I got to where I could see, and when I saw the little girl, I knew what had to be done,” he said.
He said he appreciated the family adding him to Facebook and continuing to update him on the girl’s condition.
“Working with the fire department, it’s not something you get all the time,” he said. “I mean, you go in (to situations) and you help people and then you take them to the hospital and that’s the end of it. I never hear the rest of that story, I’ll never know if they made it or not.”
It is comforting to hear that side of the story, Burnett said.
“It’s always a good feeling to know you kept somebody alive,” he said. “I just told the family that I was grateful that they screamed loud enough that my buddy could hear them, because I didn’t. I’m just glad I could help.”
GFD Chief Tony Atwood said when Burnett – who is a quiet and laid-back person – returned to work after his vacation, he didn’t say anything about the incident.
“We’re just very proud,” Atwood said. “Fireman are fireman 24/7, 365, whether on-duty or off-duty. It’s just really good to hear a young man helping out someone he didn’t even know. We think that’s just really neat.”
Lily – along with her twin sister Lindsey, her older sister Hailee, and her mother Tia – are fully recovered from the incident and say they are “very grateful” for Burnett.
“Lily’s perfectly fine, there’s no brain damage, nothing,” Pitts said. “Needless to say, I’m not too upset about them borrowing the grill. I’ll even give him my grill.”