Saturday, May 2nd, 2009
By Margie Wuebker
Celina man rescued from drowning by neighbors
77-year-old accidentally drives mower into pond; neighbor resuscitates him
The quick action of neighbors averted tragedy after a Celina man accidentally drove a riding mower into a pond while cutting grass in the Wheatland Acres subdivision Friday afternoon.
Hubert Allen, 77, 1300 Touvelle St., was working outside the home of his son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Nancy Allen, 1229 Brooke Ave., when the accident occurred shortly after 2 p.m.
Authorities believe he attempted to switch gears or could not get the mower out of reverse and it traveled into the water.
Neighbor Randy Engel was blowing grass from his deck when he heard a noise.
"I thought it was the dog and turned off the blower," he told The Daily Standard late Friday afternoon. "I heard the sound again and looked up to see a man and a mower in the pond."
Engel, a retired firefighter/paramedic with the St. Marys Fire Department, ran toward the pond and dove in without stopping. The buffeting wind had pushed Allen half way across the pond.
"He grabbed onto me and we both went under," Engel said. "I managed to push him away and roll him onto his back. There was no more movement after that. I just towed him to shore as quickly as possible."
John Higgins, another neighbor, came to Engel's aid and helped pull the older man from the water.
Allen was not breathing at that point and turning blue. Engel, also a local Boy Scout leader, tried without success to locate a pulse. He immediately began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR while Allen lay on the rocks surrounding the pond.
"All my training recommends performing CPR on a flat surface," the 18-year veteran said. "But I did not want to waste even a second. Thankfully, he came around quickly."
Fellow neighbors Calvin Scott and Jon Schumm, a firefighter/paramedic with the Celina Fire Department, also assisted at the scene.
Celina Police Sgt. Jim Stelzer, arriving in response to a 911 call placed at 2:14 p.m., found Allen awake and talking a bit.
He was taken by ambulance to Van Wert County Hospital and later transferred to St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima for further evaluation. No condition was available, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
"What a wonderful day this turned out to be," Engel said following a hot shower. "I work third shift at Parker-Hannifin and I normally sleep during the afternoon. I stayed up to work outside and thank God I did. Otherwise I would not have heard him screaming."
Assistant Police Chief Calvin Freeman said the neighbors did an outstanding job.
"Things could have turned out much differently," he said. "Their actions created a happy outcome."
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