FRESNO, Calif. (WPVI) --A five-year-old boy nearly drowned in a California creek last week, but a vacationing police officer saved his life.
Corporal Curtis Shurtliff is a Clovis, California cop by day. But he also knows how to have fun, as a lot of people saw when he won a dance-off at the Clovis Rodeo in April. He was having fun again last week, camping with family at Dinkey Creek when he heard a desperate call for help.
"My son Hunter and I are running down the hill, and I'm asking again, 'What's going on?'" Shurtliff said. "And he said, 'My 5-year-old son had drowned.'"
Shurtliff is a former paramedic, and he took over the emergency response from the man who pulled the boy, named Gabriel, from the water.
"He was unable to get the breaths into the child because his lungs had filled up with water," Shurtliff said. "I tried twice and realized that wasn't going to work and literally picked him up upside down and squeezed him, and about a gallon of water and stomach matter and everything else came out."
But Gabriel had no pulse, and even after 30 minutes of CPR, Shurtliff couldn't get him breathing.
"I looked up at my wife and I just shook my head, no, like 'I'm not going to be able to get this kid back,'" he said.
Still, Shurtliff wasn't willing to pronounce the boy was dead.
"And then the mom was sitting there the whole time and she was holding his hand and she was saying, you know, 'Come back to me,'" he said.
Shurtliff asked Gabriel's mother if she believed in God. When she said yes, he started praying with her.
"And as I said 'in Jesus' name I pray,' I felt a pulse, and I didn't think it was his pulse because I thought my heart was beating so hard it was my pulse. And it wasn't," he said. "It was his."
Paramedics took Gabriel to Valley Children's Hospital. Days later, Shurtliff paid a visit to make good on a promise he made as the boy struggled to breathe.
"I told him, 'Hey, if you survive this, I'm going to give you this hat.' So I gave him the hat," he said.
Gabriel is still recovering, but he's laughing and high-fiving and starting to act like a 5-year-old again -- a normal boy with a story to last a lifetime.