by BETH ALTENA
On a beautiful day in June, a Rockford family’s worst nightmare struck. Twenty-three-year-old Erica Morris went outside to find her 13-month-old sister, Kainani, at the bottom of the family swimming pool. She wasn’t moving, and when pulled from the water, she remained unresponsive.
Rockford Police Chief Dave Jones told the story before a packed audience at Rockford City Hall on Monday, Dec. 12. He described the harrowing scene, as Erica quickly pulled her little sister’s lifeless body from the water. Erica’s screams awoke her father, who found her performing CPR on the baby.
Rockford Police Officer Derek Haan was the first rescue personnel on the scene. He took over efforts to try to save Kainani. Haan was followed by Rockford firefighters and Rockford Ambulance paramedics, who continued lifesaving procedure as they began the trip to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. As they worked to restore her heart and breathing, they saw the little body respond, drawing breath prior to arrival at the hospital.
Six months later, the smiling, energetic child was the guest of honor at the evening meeting, pushed in her stroller past the dozen or so individuals who are responsible for her life.
“We didn’t expect a good outcome on this call,” Jones said of the near-tragedy.
Jones spoke before the group of rescue workers who participated, who stood at the front of the packed room. “Today we have as a guest someone who I think you will be very happy to see.”
Tom Morris pushed the happy Kainani from rescue worker to rescue worker, who each leaned down to admire the friendly child. Recognized at the meeting were Officer Derek Haan, firefighters Dan Vincent, Casey Bennett, Mike Bouwkamp, Benjamin Holbert, Ken Phillips, Jason Vanhorn and Kyle Wendling, and paramedics John Peot and Andrew Good, as well as Tom and Erica Morris.
As the final honor of the evening, Jones had officer Haan step forward to accept a Lifesaving pin in recognition of his part in bringing Kainani back from death only after a mere one year of life.
“As Rockford’s police chief, this is the first Lifesaving Pin that I have awarded. It is also the last Lifesaving Pin I will award, as the police and fire departments will soon be consolidated into one Department of Public Safety,” he said. “I am proud of Officer Haan and of each of the individuals who took part in saving this little girl’s life.”