'Please God, let me save this little girl': Army Ranger rescues a drowning child

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Army Spc. Luke Smith, 75th Ranger Regiment, saved the life of a drowning child, July 11, 2015, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo: U.S. Army by Sgt. 1st Class Michael R. Noggle

FORT BENNING, Ga., July 21, 2015 – On the afternoon of July 11, Army Rangers Spc. Luke Smith, Sgt. Khali Pegues, and Sgt. Brian Miller were cleaning up after hosting a barbecue with members of the 75th Ranger Regiment at a community pool area here when they heard cries for help.

A child about 6 years old had fallen into the pool and drowned.

“We heard a woman scream and some commotion from another party,” Pegues, Smith’s supervisor, said. “I grabbed Smith to head over there, because I knew he had extensive training in CPR and [lifesaving] techniques.”

Smith, a native of North East, Maryland, was a Boy Scout before he enlisted in the Army in 2011. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout as well as earning the Life-Saving Merit Badge and had extensive training in performing CPR.

Operating on Instinct

“We got over there and then I went into a tunnel vision,” Smith said. “As soon as I saw the child, I immediately asked everyone around if anyone was a current lifeguard or medical provider. No one responded.”

Smith and Miller assessed that the child was unconscious and had no pulse. In addition, the child’s abdomen was swollen and her lips were blue, Smith said. The soldiers immediately started CPR. As Smith began chest compressions, he called for the child’s father to begin rescue breathing.

He instructed the father to do half-breaths, so the child’s lungs would not overexpand. After the second cycle of CPR, Smith said he began to fear the worst.

“As I was giving her chest compressions, I was staring her in the face and praying,” said Smith. “Please God, let me save this little girl.”

Relief, Thankfulness

It was during the third cycle of chest compressions and rescue breaths that the child woke up in a jolt and began to cough to expel water from her system. Smith said he leaned her forward and began to smack her back to help clear out more water.

Smith said he was relieved and thankful his prayers had been answered.

“Smith held his composure throughout the whole process and took charge of the situation,” Pegues said. “No questions asked, he didn’t hesitate at all. He snapped to it and immediately did what he had to do.”

The local fire department arrived shortly afterward and transported the girl to a medical facility for follow-on treatment.

“It was amazing to see what he did,” Pegues said. “I kept looking over at [my] wife and to fight back the tears. That girl was not breathing for a few minutes and we didn’t know how long she was under water.”

‘I Did What I Was Supposed to Do’

Pegues describes Smith as a confident Ranger and very knowledgeable in his job. He said he attended an event recently to honor Boy Scouts of Columbus, Georgia. During this event, he gained a newfound respect for Eagle Scouts.

“I told Smith a while ago after attending the event that I gained a lot of respect because of what he had to go through [to become an Eagle Scout],” Pegues said. “It didn’t surprise me at all what he did for that girl, I knew he could handle the situation.

Smith said he doesn’t view himself as a hero or someone worthy of praise.

“I just did what anyone else would have done in that situation,” he said. “I did what I was supposed to do. If I wasn’t there, someone else would have done it. I do not feel like a hero.”

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