By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A 7-year-old boy was in critical condition Friday night after nearly drowning in the lake at Veterans Park.
The child was airlifted to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis around 5 p.m. after paramedics managed to resuscitate him. According to friends of the victim’s family, the child’s name is Chance Nobles.
His prognosis remained unknown late Friday night.
The incident occurred around 4 p.m. while he and several other children played in the park’s lake despite a No Swimming sign posted about 10 feet away.
Witnesses said Chance, his brother and at least two other young children were wading in the murky waters near the city splash pad. The boy’s adult relatives were in the park but not near the children, said Hazel Wilson and Sandra Wells, who were at the splash pad.
“We saw four white kids playing in the water, and I thought, ‘Where the parents at?’” Wells said. “The kids are too close to the water.”
Wells and Wilson, both Tupelo residents, said they observed the young children numerous times during the roughly 45 minutes prior to the accident and never saw adult supervision.
However, family members told police they had just taken their eyes off the children for a few seconds, according to Tupelo Police Capt. Tim Tate.
Dispatchers were alerted shortly before 4 p.m. that a child was missing and believed to be in the water.
Within minutes, two rescuers ran to the lake and began diving for Chance, whom they located quickly, according to Mike Thomas of the Tupelo Fire Department.
Paramedics pumped his chest while children and adults screamed. In a video of the incident recorded by Tupelo resident Annette Tomlinson, a voice repeatedly sobs, “Please, Lord.”
Tomlinson said she heard one of the paramedics tell Chance he wasn’t giving up on him.
It’s unclear exactly how long the child was under water, but Tate said “apparently a long time” because he had no pulse upon being found.
After several minutes, Chance convulsed and was whisked into an ambulance and taken to North Mississippi Medical Center. He was then transferred to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
The incident rattled many of the park visitors, including Tupelo resident Denise Russell, who said she has long worried about kids playing in the lake and has called 911 several times to report it.
“I feared this was going to happen,” she said. “It touches me because I feel like I had tried to prevent it, and nothing has really been done.”
Russell said the city should erect a fence, either around the splash pad and playground or around the lake.
Tupelo Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis said a fence won’t prevent people from going into the lake and that the city already has cautioned people against it with the No Swimming sign and increased police patrol.
“It’s like any body of water, like Ballard Park, parents have to patrol their children,” Lewis said. “It’s a terrible situation.”