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ND man saves girl from drowning

BISMARCK - On a recent Saturday, the swimming pool at the Comfort Inn and Suites was a popular place, with at least two birthday parties and lots of kids.

BISMARCK - On a recent Saturday, the swimming pool at the Comfort Inn and Suites was a popular place, with at least two birthday parties and lots of kids.

For 3-year-old Kenlee Jeffrey, it also was where she nearly died.

Kenlee was with her mother, Hillary Theurer, for a friend's birthday party. She was playing in the kids' pool when Theurer turned away briefly. When Theurer turned around, Kenlee was no longer in the kids' pool.

Theurer started looking for her, assuming Kenlee, a precocious child, had met other kids and wandered off with her new best friends - a habit of hers.

"It never really crossed my mind that she would be underwater," Theurer said.


Justin Bueligen, of Mandan, an athletic trainer at Sanford Health, also was at the Comfort Inn for his cousin's birthday.

He was headed to the bottom of the water slide, about 3 feet deep, to catch his nephew, when he noticed something at the bottom of the pool.

At first, he said, he thought it was a deflated toy. Seeing it was a young girl, he poked her a few times, hoping she was just playing. There was no reaction.

"I reached down to pick her up and my heart just dropped," Bueligen said.

Kenlee was not responding and was starting to look blue. Bueligen started calling for help and carried Kenlee out of the pool. Theurer, a clerk at St. Alexius Medical Center, reached for her immediately and started administering CPR, giving Kenlee chest compressions.

Another woman ran up to them, saying she was a nurse, and started giving Kenlee breaths.

Bueligen took over chest compressions after a short time. Moments later, Kenlee started coughing up water.

A few moments more and she was crying. It was an extremely welcome sound, Bueligen said.


The whole episode was over in just a few minutes. And the ambulance was there within five.

"When you're in the moment, it felt like forever," Bueligen said.

Kenlee stayed in the hospital for two days. She got to go home on a Monday night and declared she was going to school - Head Start in Mandan - on Tuesday.

Theurer said Kenlee has more than bounced back. She's stubborn. Even in the ambulance, Theurer said, Kenlee was saying "I'm fine! I want to go home! I'm fine!"

Theurer is thankful she had learned CPR for her job and she said she recommends more parents get certified, because a person never knows what will happen.

The general manager for Comfort Inn and Suites, Josh Churchill, said the hotel has pool attendants, but they don't necessarily have lifeguard training.

It is imperative, he said, that parents be watchful of their children. Accidents happen, but it could have been worse, he said.

Luckily, the experience has not put Kenlee off water. She still loves playing in the pool.


"I have a lot of water Barbies," she said.

"Do you share?" Bueligen asked her.

"Sometimes," she answered.

Kenlee likely will be taking some swimming lessons this summer.

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