Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Three heroic teens save drowning girl

Moriah Mastin, 16, is accustomed to kids playing the ‘hold your breath underwater’ game at the Kasson Aquatic Center where she’s a lifeguard.

But something told her there was something wrong with a preschool girl who was underwater for too long just five minutes into her shift on Tuesday, June 30.

From the lifeguard chair, Mastin observed a little girl playing by the ropes with her head down. “I wasn’t sure if she needed help or was playing a game,” Mastin said.

Mastin chose to jump in and found bubbles coming out of the girl’s mouth and “her lips were blue. Her eyes were open but not looking at anything.”

Maggie Boice, 4, told her mother she had gone in too far, and drowned. “She’ll tell you that,” Nichole Boice said. “She’s very matter-of-fact about a lot of things in life.”

At the pool, lifeguard Alayna Gossard, 16, cleared the pool of swimmers. It was about 9:05 a.m. and they had just opened the pool to a community education group of kids at 9 a.m. Mastin took the little girl to the edge of the pool and started CPR.

“We started compressions right away,” she said. “After a few rounds, I saw her blink and she started to cry and scream. I remember how scared I was.”

On site, the ambulance had arrived and an EMT took over caring for Maggie. Nichole Boice was alerted by phone by the Project Kids staff that her daughter was involved in an incident at the pool and Nichole should come pick up Maggie.

Then a member of the ambulance responders called and Nichole was able to talk with Maggie. They were still at the pool at that time, and headed to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester. Nichole was already in Rochester, so beat them to the hospital. She met Maggie and the first responders in a hallway.

“She was doing OK,” her mother said. “She was scared. Obviously you’re going to be a little shocked and scared until you see them. I was glad I saw her and she was OK.”

Maggie was swimming at the pool with Community Education’s Project Kids group. About 45 kids were scheduled to swim that day, said Jenny Carrier, Community Education director. Fourteen staff members were scheduled to be on duty.

Carrier credits Project Kids staff Ally Kelly, 21, and Darby Bolster, 24, with helping to save Maggie’s life, along with the lifeguards and first responders. Nichole Boice said everyone did their jobs properly and that’s why Maggie is alive today.

“These kids did what they’re supposed to do and they used their training properly and remained calm and that’s why she’s here,” Nichole Boice said. “I have no qualms with the staff if she goes back to the pool. The staff has shown they can do what they’re trained to do. I have complete faith in both Project Kids and the pool.”

Back at the pool, Mastin and fellow lifeguard Marley Smith, 15, performed CPR on Maggie Boice. Smith performed mouth-to-mouth and Mastin handled chest compressions.  Gossard saw the little girl moan and said she was in pain and shock.


“She had a lot of water in her lungs,” Gossard said. In the lifeguard room, Mastin went back and forth between crying and remaining calm, she said of the incident’s after shock. Eventually, Gossard took Mastin home. Mastin lives in Kasson and Gossard and Smith live in Mantorville.

As for Smith, she had seen Mastin jump into the pool, fully clothed, with a swim suit under her t-shirt and shorts, as Smith was overseeing kids on the climbing wall. Smith heard a whistle blow and screamed for kids to exit the pool. She rushed to Mastin’s side to help with Maggie. Gossard was screaming “30 and 2, 30 and 2” and reassuring Mastin that she was doing the right thing with chest compressions.

Mastin was holding Maggie and telling her she was “doing a good job,” Mastin recalls. Mastin said she questioned herself after the traumatic incident. “What if I’d gotten there sooner? What if the CPR hadn’t worked? I know I did what I was supposed to do, though, and that she’s OK now,” she said of Maggie.

Gossard said the three lifeguards were just doing their jobs on that fateful day. None of the lifeguards warm to the idea of being called heroes.

None of them has ever saved anyone before, and Smith was only on the job for eight days when the incident occurred. Mastin and Gossard are in their second years of being lifeguards.

Their supervisor at the pool, Josh Mitchell, said “I’m very proud of my staff. It’s all about them.”

Carrier echoes his assessment, saying everyone involved in saving Maggie Boice “did an excellent job of communicating and acting quickly in a scary situation.”

As for Maggie, life continues with building Legos and playing with My Little Ponies, her mother said. When asked if she’s afraid of swimming, Maggie’s mother is quick to answer. “Nope,” she said. Maggie already went into a lake with her family over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

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