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Bystanders save 4-year-old girl from drowning in Big River, police say

Police said a man pulled the girl from the river and two women performed CPR to get her breathing again.

DITTMER, Mo. — A 4-year-old girl was saved from the Big River in Dittmer, Missouri, Sunday.

A spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the incident happened on Browns Ford Road. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, which is now handling the investigation, said three bystanders managed to save the girl after she was carried away by the current.

Grant Bissell with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, said the girl was swimming with family members when the current pulled her away and under the water. Down river, a man heard family members yelling for help and spotted the girl under the water.

Bissell said the man dove into the water, pulled the girl up, and swam her to the bank. 

The girl was blue and was not breathing, but two women on the bank started CPR and were able to get her breathing again.

Bissell said the girl was flown by helicopter to a local hospital where she was stabilized. She is expected to survive.

Pulling up to another Big River boat launch Tuesday morning, Travis Sestan and Nicole White had a pile of floatation devices in the back row of their car.

"We are hoping to be down on the river today because it's always a lot more fun," White said of their preference over an apartment complex swimming pool.

She said they like to hang out in one of the still pools along the river bank, adding that safety is top of mind.

"It's very important to stay safe when you're out here, especially in the river because you never know. You absolutely never know," she said.

Water safety:

In a video posted last summer, the Missouri State Highway Patrol posted a video with safety tips for swimming in rivers. In the video Cpl. Juston Wheetley said swimming in a river is different from a lake or pool and can tire out even the most experienced swimmers.

He said most drownings occur when people overestimate their swimming abilities in the current.

He said there are a few things to keep in mind when swimming in a river:

  • Always wear a well-fitting life jacket that is rated for your size and weight.
  • Make sure you always go swimming with a group.
  • Have a throwable floatation device ready if an emergency arises.

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