Young lifeguard hailed as hero for saving 7-year-old

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – A St. Charles County lifeguard’s quick-thinking has been credited for saving the life of a 7-year-old boy who nearly drowned.

“You’re accountable for other people’s lives,” said Becca Long, who is lifeguarding for the first time this summer at Alligator’s Creek Aquatic Center in O’Fallon, Missouri.

While Long keeps a close eye over the water, her skills were put to the test Tuesday, when Bryan Atchinson jumped off of a diving board but had trouble staying afloat.

“When you see someone struggling, you know it’s your job to jump in and help them,” she said. “He started crying out for help, so I jumped in and saved him.”

Thankfully, the young boy wasn’t hurt.

“Thank you for saving me,” the 7-year-old said Friday.

The boy was all smiles after the fact, but for his mom, Heather Simpson, it was sheer panic as she watched her son being pulled from the water.

“I just saw him coughing and sitting on the side of the pool just almost in tears,” Simpson said. “It was terrible.”

Reports show many area pools are facing a severe lifeguard shortage but there was certainly no shortage of courage at the aquatic center.

“Every time we have a save I always think about how proud I am that they are keeping their eyes on the water at all times,” said pool supervisor Cam Haney.

Haney said the public pool will always be staffed with skilled and well-trained lifeguards.

“Water safety is something that we very much pride ourselves on in making sure that everything here and everybody who is here is safe around the water,” Haney said.

Long said she doesn’t consider herself a hero for saving Bryan’s life, rather she’s doing what she loves, all in an effort to help avoid another potential tragedy.

“I’m very grateful for that, knowing that what I’m doing is affecting others,” Long said.

The aquatic center is currently hiring skilled and experienced lifeguards. For more information, log onto O’Fallon’s Parks and Rec page.