By DENNY SEITZ
HUNTERSVILLE – “I’m not sure I know how to do this,” said 15-year old Blair Timberlake, in a rare moment of self-doubt for the talented sophomore athlete from W.A. Hough High School.
It was 4:08 p.m. on Saturday, barely an hour into Ms. Timberlake’s first-ever shift as a lifeguard, and she was blowing a whistle to clear the pool and racing to her first rescue.
Seconds before, Tanners Creek resident Amanda Harris had begun screaming for help. Seven-year old Tyqual Seaburn was face down at the bottom of the Tanners Creek neighborhood pool.
Ms. Timberlake was en route to save him. Fellow lifeguard Alyssa Bensky, a senior at Hopewell High was dialing 9-1-1. Eleven-year old Faith Gibson and 12-year old Meghan Seitz were carrying the boy to the side of the pool, where Ms. Harris pulled him out of the water.
Mason Gainey, 19, was next on the scene and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before giving way to Ms. Timberlake.
For several anxious moments Tyqual had no pulse and was not breathing, as Ms. Timberlake performed CPR, a skill learned less than a month ago when during lifeguard training. Self-doubt instantly gave way to a calm, focused determination to save the life of a boy she’d never met.
Amid the chaos of horrified screams, frantic yelling for someone to call 9-1-1 and the ever-present music wafting from speakers at the pool house, Ms. Timberlake performed in much the same manner in which she did this school year as she played key roles on the first two state championship teams ever at Hough High – as a member of the Huskies swim and soccer teams.
She never gave up, not even after several minutes of CPR led to no response from the boy.
“Be thankful for your life while you have it,” Ms. Timberlake posted on her Twitter account a few hours after her heroic actions had finally sunk in, and she realized that a boy was dead but now lives thanks to the actions of her and a handful of others.
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy,” she tweeted later in the day.
Ms. Timberlake was the No. 1 high school diver in North Carolina this year and instrumental in bringing the Huskies their school’s first state championship.
One week ago, she was part of a soccer team that completed an undefeated season by claiming a 2-1 victory against the No. 1 ranked soccer team in the nation to win N.C. 4A championship. Nothing could rattle her as she leaped off a diving board and barely made a ripple in the water below, or defended players from one of the country’s best teams when Hough played Green Hope High in the state title game on Saturday, May 26.
But what happened on Saturday, June 2, was so different.
“It’s almost like it’s not even happening, like it’s not real,” Ms. Timberlake said afterward, describing how she felt when the chaos began.
Within five minutes police, fire and rescue teams were on the scene at the neighborhood pool. By that time, Tyqual Seaburn was breathing shallow breaths, but still unconscious. Rescue personnel administered oxygen. He awoke, screaming and crying, and gasping for air. At 4:27 p.m. he was in an ambulance, en route to the hospital.
Ms. Timberlake, meanwhile, was headed back to the lifeguard stand, seemingly unshaken by the tense moments and her role in the rescue.
Mr. Gainey, who also has worked as a lifeguard, said: “All I know was that the boy was not alive when he came out of that pool, but that he was alive when he left here.
Tyqual reportedly spent Saturday night in the Intensive Care Unit at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. On Sunday, he was moved out of intensive care but remained in the hospital, according to family friends.