GREEN Typically, when a high school team takes a spring break trip south, it’s about playing games in warm, sunny conditions and bonding as a team by getting away from home for a few days.
There were those moments for the Green softball team as the Bulldogs headed to Myrtle Beach to kick off their season, but one of the most vivid memories from the trip involved a very serious situation. During the trip, following the junior varsity team wrapping up play for the day, parents and players headed to the pool at the North Myrtle Beach Plantation resort. As they were settling in at the pool, a tragic situation unfolded.
“I was setting up my poolside chair, unpacking my bag to relax for the afternoon and my friend (and fellow team parent) Maran Agosta was at the other end of one of the pools on her phone,” said Michelle Smart, mother of Green player Nevaeh Smart. “Maran started yelling my name and waving. I thought she just wanted to move our spot to another pool for better sun until I heard a different tone in her voice.”
Smart recalled Agosta urging her to hurry, so she rushed over and was told that emergency personnel were doing CPR on a child. As a nurse, Smart asked if she could help by rotating in with the other two individuals attempting to resuscitate the young girl who had been pulled from the water. She also tried to help with the child’s uncle, who was on vacation with the girl and other family members.
Paramedics soon arrived on the scene and Smart did her best to calm the uncle down as he alternated between trying to reach his niece, crying and praying.
“I felt his pain and wanted to ball my eyes out but being a nurse, I was able to channel that energy to trying to comfort and calm him instead. We prayed and I held his hands and hugged him and did anything I could to try calm him so the medics could continue working on his niece,” Smart said. “After 10 minutes or so, the medics were putting the child on a cart to take her to the ambulance. She still was not breathing and did not have a pulse.”
While Smart did what she could to help the paramedics and uncle, Maran Agosta and her daughter Brooke, one of Nevaeh Smart’s teammates, also tried to help by doing what they could to console the girl’s family.
“We saw that they were giving the little girl CPR and we stood back and watched as they carted her off,” Brooke Agosta said. “The family was sitting on pool chairs and we were just giving them towels and I saw two of their boys and we were just comforting and hugging them.”
According to Brooke Agosta, the family had nine children on vacation with them, including the girl’s aunt, who had her baby with her. A hotel employee brought a box of bottled water and Agosta and her mother distributed the water to the family.
As the family was dealing with the tragic situation unfolding around them, Brooke Agosta and her mother took the baby and the family’s other children upstairs and helped everyone get changed from their wet bathing suits into dry clothes, making food for everyone as another hotel employee went to get more food. Although she hadn’t seen the young girl drowning in the pool, Brooke Agosta felt compelled to help in the aftermath of the incident and do what she could to be there for the family.
“What motivated me, being a babysitter of younger kids, was that I couldn’t just sit back,” she said. “I knew inside I just had to go help.”
As Agosta and her mother stayed with the family’s other children for the next few hours, everyone waited to hear what they hoped would be good news about the drowning victim. The police and fire department called Maran Agosta and told her the child was in the intensive care unit, but was not breathing on her own. In an ironic twist, the little girl was from Cleveland, having traveled to Myrtle Beach with her family.
The girl’s mother was not traveling with the family and flew in that evening, but the following day, news came that the girl had passed away. Those who had been involved with the situation and its aftermath were emotionally drained and devastated to hear the news, according to Smart, but the local police and fire department wanted to extend their appreciation to Agosta and her mother for their efforts to comfort the family during the tragedy.
They came to the hotel and met with the two, presenting them with a token of appreciation.
“It’s a coin that the chief of police gives to their workers for doing something brave or helping someone,” Brooke Agosta said.
As the trip continued for the Green JV and varsity teams, the Agostas and Smart continued to think about the girl, whose name was Leirra, and her family. Seeing a 4-year-old child drown left a lasting impression on all three of them and although the efforts made to save Leirra’s life weren’t successful, doing what they could in a crisis is something they would be willing to do again if they found themselves in a similar situation.
“Being a nurse, it's just what you do. I'm thankful I was at that very place at that time to help in any way I could, and thankful that Maran and Brooke helped with the family,” Smart said. “Looking back, seeing that precious child being worked on poolside and helping her uncle was one of the hardest things I've ever done. We continue to pray for her family and friends.”
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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