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NEWS | April 8, 2015

Airman saves the life of a child

By Trisha Gallaway Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

What was supposed to be a beautiful afternoon at the beach for a Joint Base Charleston fireman and his girlfriend quickly turned into a nightmare for a local Charleston mother and her three year old daughter.

Airman 1st Class Daniel Pippen, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter and his girlfriend Becky Atkins had spent the afternoon of March 9, 2015 on the beach at Sullivan's Island. After packing up their things they started to depart the beach when they noticed children playing in a three to four foot pool that had been created on the beach by the receding tide.

"We could hear their mother yelling at the two children from the other side of the pool, trying to figure out what they were up to," said Pippen. "As we got closer I could see that a young boy was holding his little sisters ankle, with her head under the water, pulling her out of the pool toward us."

Realizing something was wrong with the child, Pippen and Atkins, who is a registered nurse at East Cooper Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, sprang into action.

"I dropped my bag and we ran to them," said Pippen. "When Becky and I got closer I could see that the 5 to 6 year-old boy was obviously upset. He was shaking and kept asking us to help his sister."

All it took was one look at the young girl and Pippen and Atkins knew the situation was dire.

"She had no color in her face, her eyes were wide open, and she had foam around her mouth," said Pippen.

Atkins instructed a bystander to call 911 and then got to work clearing the child's airway while Pippen began chest compressions.

"When Becky and I ran up to the little girl, we both automatically knew what to do, without even saying anything to each other, said Pippen. "After two cycles of CPR she started coughing and crying, just as the Sullivan's Island firefighters arrived on scene," said Pippen.

From what Pippen was able to gather from the young girl's brother, his sister had lost her footing and fell into the pool, and became submerged under water for several minutes.

"[First responders] transported the mother and the child in a pickup truck while Becky and I helped gather their belongings," said Pippen.

Days later Pippen was tracked down on base by Sally Liiphert, the mother of the little girl Pippen and Atkins revived.

"She let me know that her daughter Annie had spent that night in the hospital with a small fever, but had fully recovered and is feeling fine," said Pippen.

Pippen's training as a first responder provided him with the tools necessary to respond to these types of situations regardless if it's on base or on the beach. 

"In Fire Protection technical school, the first subject you are taught is Emergency Medical Responder, which also includes a CPR course and certification," said Pippen. "The CPR cert is a standard course provided by the American Heart Association. I have actually taken the course several times, but never had the opportunity to use the skills I had learned."

Pippen's leadership in the JB Charleston Fire Department were not the least bit surprised when they learned of the lengths Pippen went to save young Annie's life.

"Airman 1st Class Pippen is a tremendous asset to the JB Charleston Fire Department and we are fortunate to have him as a member of our team," said Chief Master Sgt. David Rose, 628th CES Fire Department fire chief. "The realistic medical training that our Airmen receive allows them to respond to complex emergencies without hesitation."

Once Annie began showing signs of life, relief washed over Pippen and Atkins.

"[Nothing can describe] the relief I felt when she started coughing and crying," he said. "It was truly a blessing that we happened to be at the right place at the right time, and it was a great reminder of why we do what we do."