Woman saves drowning child at water park

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NORMAN, Okla. -- The heroic actions of a mother at a new water park in Norman save the life of a little girl over the weekend.

A few seconds later, the girl could have drowned.

Paula Dodson doesn't consider herself a hero, just someone who saw this girl before lifeguards did at Andy Alligator's Water Park Saturday afternoon.

Dodson was with her own three children in the park's Lazy River when a 7-year-old girl floated by her.

At first, she looked like she was playing around but that quickly changed.

"I said, 'Yeah, something's not right,'" Dodson recalls.

After a few seconds of watching the girl floating face down, Dodson saw her body flip over.

Her eyes were wide open and she was completely unresponsive.

Paula pulled her out of the water, screamed for lifeguards and watched them push on the girl's stomach a couple of times before the girl coughed up water and regained consciousness.

"Scared me half to death," Dodson said. "Like, it really shook me up."

The water was only three feet deep, shallow for the girl. So what happened?

"Maybe she lost her footing," Dodson said. "Maybe she hit her head, who knows? There's other kids playing. You don't know what can happen."

"It (an accident) can happen in a blink of an eye," park Operations Director Shaun Mendez said.

He said the park had 20 lifeguards watching 600 people Saturday and those lifeguards are trained to scan their designated area within 10 seconds.

The park provides life jackets but this girl was not wearing one.

Mendez urges parents to provide another set of eyes on their kids, even in shallow water.

"It's extremely important to watch their kids," he said. "I mean, lifeguards are there for their safety but the first step of safety is the parents."

"You see all the lifeguards, you think that it's going to be fine but parents need to know that at any time, anything can happen," Dodson said.

The girl's foster parents were unable to be reached but Dodson said the girl and her foster mother hugged and thanked her.

Dodson just happens to be a five-year cancer survivor.

She appreciates how precious life is and is glad she was in the right place at the right time to save a life.

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