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2 PTC girls rescued from drowning

Girl, 11, sounds alarm as sisters lay unbreathing on pool bottom; adults using CPR credited with saving their lives

Two Peachtree City girls who sank to the bottom of a pool at a party Saturday are alive today thanks to an alert 11-year-old and adults who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Katelyn LaRusso, 11, noticed sisters Kinsley Best, 3, and Reagan Best, 5, at the bottom of the pool. She yelled for help, and homeowner Nancy Bernardi jumped in the pool to bring Kinsley and Reagan to the surface.

Both girls were blue and not breathing, said their father, Doug Best.

Kathleen Mason, a mother at the party, performed rescue breathing on Kinsley, who quickly expelled water and started to breathe again. Reagan was brought back to life as Nancy Bernardi’s husband Will gave her CPR, which Mason assisted . A bystander called 911.

The girls, who were treated by Peachtree City paramedics, spent a night in the intensive care unit at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital but have made a 100 percent recovery, Doug Best reports.

Having stayed at home for quality time with son Hunter instead of attending the pool party, Doug Best recalled getting a phone call as the girls were loaded into the ambulance from another mom on the scene.

She relayed to Doug that Kinsley was breathing well but the medics were “still working” on Reagan.

“At that point, my mind went to: ‘she’s gone,’” Doug Best said. “For a period of time there the world was just ending for me. My son is looking at me going, ‘Who is it, what’s wrong?’ I was absolutely hearing the news that she had died.”

Then either a police officer or paramedic grabbed the phone and reported that Reagan’s breathing was restored.

Today both girls are alive, happy and 100 percent recovered, Best said. And he knows exactly why.

“I thank the fact that Mr. Bernardi had at some point taken time in his life and said, ‘OK, I’m going to get CPR training,’” Best said. “... He gave us the most precious gift you could possibly ever give.”

Best said he is hopeful his family’s ordeal will encourage others to take CPR classes and also be extremely cautious with any children around pool settings. He recommends designating one specific adult to monitor the pool at any given time, because in a social setting it can become easy to get lost in conversation and not pay as much attention to the kids in the pool.

It wasn’t until later that the Best family fully learned exactly how Kinsley and Reagan ended up at the bottom of the pool. Doug Best explained that Reagan is a fantastic swimmer, “a real fish” and Kinsley, the 3-year-old, can go from end to end of the pool while wearing a ring type floatation device.

The girls were in the deep end and wanted to share a floatation mat together. Because there wasn’t room enough for them to share the mat, it was decided that Kinsley could take off her flotation device to make room, Best explained.

At one point Reagan got off the mat and Kinsley panicked, grabbing her sister by the neck. Reagan struggled and both ended up sinking to the bottom of the pool.

While Reagan is a great swimmer herself, she couldn’t have been expected to save her sister, Best said. At the same time, Kinsley’s flotation device gave a “false sense of security,” Best added.

“Obviously this was the most terrifying thing that has happened in our lives,” Doug Best said.

He is determined, however, to make something good out of the near tragedy. A coach for son Hunter’s 11-12-year-old baseball team, Best gathered the team and parents after a game to share the story and remind them to be cautious around pools.

Best also wanted to the team to hear him praise Katelyn LaRusso, herself 11, as being a heroine for being alert and taking action.

“In 30 seconds, you probably would’ve been looking at permanent damage and things like that,” Best said. “Every second counted.”

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