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Lifeguard’s quick thinking saves teen on opening day

Lifeguards, from left, Amy Stevens, 17, Allison Bell, 21, Josh Geter, 19, and Katie Mocknick, 17, worked as a team Saturday to save Christian Jones, 13, at City Pool. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[05/29/01] Two years ago, Katie Mocknick took a lifeguarding class that taught her to never let a swimmer stay under water for more than 15 seconds.

Angie Jones said she’s glad Mocknick remembered that lesson Saturday when her neighbor Christian Jones, 13, was pulled from City Pool after he dived into the deep end and didn’t resurface. Jones, who is not related to Christian, was at the pool with her children on its first day of the summer season.

“She did what she had to do,” Jones said. “It was tough. It all happened so fast.”

Mocknick, 17 and a rising senior at St. Aloysius High School, dived to the bottom of the pool, grabbed him and swam to the side where she immediately checked for a pulse. Still breathing but not coherent, he started vomiting and was turned on his side by Mocknick with the assistance of lifeguards Allison Bell, Amy Stevens, Will Vollor and Josh Geter. Emergency personnel arrived within two minutes to take Christian to Vicksburg Medical Center. He was later transferred to the critical care unit at ParkView Regional Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition, a hospital spokesman said later Saturday.

“There’s no doubt that Katie saved the boy’s life,” said City Pool director Sylvia Gurtowski. “I always thought I had the best staff in Vicksburg. Now I know I do.”

Mocknick had to keep an especially good eye on the pool Saturday afternoon, Gurtowski said, as it filled to its capacity of 250 several times.

The accident was the first at the Lee Street complex to require hospital attention since it opened in 1995, she said.

Mocknick said she never expected to have to put her safety training to use.

“When you’re taking the class, you’re always thinking, I’m never going to have to use this stuff,'” she said. “But if I didn’t have the training, I would have panicked.”

Mocknick, the daughter of Joe and Jerri Mocknick, also said she shouldn’t get all the credit for the rescue.

“It was a team effort,” she said. “Will and Allison were there to help me.”

Though Gurtowski and her staff were still comforting each other an hour after Mocknick rescued Jones, first-year lifeguard Stevens said the afternoon had given her another fond memory of Mocknick, her friend since kindergarten.

“We’ve already done enough stuff together to write a book,” Stevens said. “Katie’s a good friend. This is another good thing.”