Always on duty

Off-duty firefighters save toddler


Annapolis Capitol

When volunteer firefighter Meghan Hiponia went to a family reunion at Sandy Point State Park on Saturday, she didn’t expect to save a life.

The St. Margarets woman, who volunteers at the Woodland Beach department, revived a toddler who nearly drowned.

“It’s so weird being on the other end of things, waiting for the ambulance,” she said. “I had so many skills I could use, but no tools.”

Naod Mehari’s family found the 2 year old floating face-down in the Chesapeake Bay just before 5 p.m., said Lt. Frank Fennell, a county Fire Department spokesman.

Firefighter Hiponia and her boyfriend, Prince George’s County volunteer Firefighter Rich Cunningham, ran to the child.

“When we saw him we really didn’t think we were going to bring him back,” Firefighter Hiponia said.

They started CPR, flipped him over and were able to get some of the water out of his lungs. She said the boy began breathing but remained unconscious.

Lt. Fennell said the toddler’s family, which was having a celebration at the park, had called 911 but was having communication problems in telling the dispatcher where they were.

County Firefighter Robert Ogilvie, Firefighter Hiponia’s uncle, called 911 and gave a detailed description of the location for the ambulance.

Lt. Fennell said firefighters from the Cape St. Claire station had been to the park earlier in the day. On their way over, they contacted officers from Natural Resources Police at the park to alert them to assist with the situation.

“It was a lot of heads-up, forward-track thinking for everyone involved,” Lt. Fennell said.

Firefighter Hiponia said she took the boy up to the street and waited for help to arrive.

She removed the wet clothing from the child and wrapped him in a warm blanket. She said he started to “come around,” and when he was in the ambulance he started reaching for his mother.

The boy was flown to Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was in good condition as of this morning.

“At the beach you’re supposed to be there to relax and put your work aside. It just goes to show emergencies can happen anywhere,” Lt. Fennell said.