By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
The boy had already been pulled ashore when Captain David England arrived with the fire department. Just minutes earlier, the scene at Georgetown’s Blue Hole had been a nightmare every parent fears.
The boy’s mother, Elizabeth Crowe, shared her harrowing experience at the popular swimming spot in a 2 a.m. Facebook post that has since gone viral. Since it was published earlier this month, it has accrued over 16,000 likes.
Crowe and her family had been visiting from Kyle when Benny, her young, 90-pound son, became trapped under a current in the dam.
England said the problem was a small, foot-wide hole in the lower dam’s concrete, where the water is waist-high for an adult.
This story, however, does have a happy ending. Crowe and a nearby woman were able to successfully pull the boy out.
“We were fortunate,” England said. “The mother acted quickly, and was right there.”
Crowe’s Facebook post describes the event in detail.
She writes that she was first alerted when her oldest son screamed “the one scream no parent wants to hear.
My heart stopped and I knew something was terribly wrong.”
She writes, “I have no idea how I ran across that river so fast and scaled that wall, when I got up Benny was under water looking at me, getting sucked into a drainage hole in the dam wall.”
The water’s pull was strong, and she didn’t know if she would be able to pull him out.
“I thought I was going to have to watch my son drown in front of me.”
Some women rushed to help Crowe, but even together they could not pull him out.
She continues, “Benny was turning blue and passed out. I jumped off the wall and went into the hole from the bottom and started pushing up.”
She prayed, and as she pushed and the women pulled, the boy popped out. By this point, she says that he was blue, and had been underwater for at least three minutes.
“I laid his lifeless body on the dam, getting ready to do CPR. He spit up and started screaming,” she writes. “That was the best sound in the world.”
Emergency services arrived shortly after Benny had been pulled out.
She cautioned parents to “please watch your kids around places like this.”
A grate normally covered the hole, and after it was found lying nearby on the shore, police stayed as park officials worked quickly to replace it that afternoon. It was re-fastened with bolts the next day.
Assistant Parks & Recreation Director Eric Nuner said the park is “absolutely safe.”
The other three grates along the dam were confirmed to still be in place and had their bolts intact.
The removal of the one grate was a result of vandalism, he said, though they don’t know when it occurred.
“It would not have been removed for any reason,” he said, and this was the first time something like this has happened.
England said that drownings are not common at Georgetown’s Blue Hole.
When his squad is called, he said, it is normally because of kids jumping off the cliff, which is prohibited by posted signs.
Liberty Hill also has a blue hole, though unlike Georgetown, it is not an official park, but rather private property. The site on the San Gabriel River is located on County Road 279 south of downtown, and is popular among local families and teenagers.
Battalion Chief Mark Rosenbush of Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 that serves the Liberty Hill area said the department has been called to Liberty Hill’s blue hole for injuries, dehydration, and snake bites, but not for any drownings or near drownings.
The Liberty Hill location has a bridge-like rampart that runs across the river to allow water to spill over it, but there is no hole of the kind that trapped Crowe’s son.
Local high schoolers Carson Chapman, 16, and Noah Dishman, 18, said they feel “totally safe” at the spot.
Parents responding to a Facebook request from The Independent seeking experiences there expressed similar thoughts.
“There isn’t anything really dangerous like that for the kids to get sucked into,” wrote Amanda Foust.
Katelyn New wrote, “Always be cautious around water. All water.”
Rosenbush said that as far as responding to a drowning goes, there isn’t one rule book. In any case, however, preparation will be key.
“Make sure you always have someone who knows where you are, whether you can swim or not,” he said, adding that if someone doesn’t know how to swim, always wear a life jacket.
If someone is drowning, Rosenbush says a potential rescuer should not jump in unless they are prepared themselves.
“Don’t get yourself into a situation where you can harm yourself,” he said.
The water in Crowe’s case was waist-high for an adult, of course, but Rosenbush added that he would never tell a mother what she could and could not do to rescue her child.