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2-year-old honored for saving her 10-month-old sister from drowning

Posted at 12:21 AM, Jan 19, 2017

Elena Betancourt, who is 2 and a half years old, was honored by the St. Lucie County Fire Department Wednesday for saving her baby sister from drowning.

Firefighters say her baby sister, Araceli, fell in her family's pool while her mother briefly ran out to her car. They say Betancourt, who can't swim, put on a pool floatie, jumped in the water, paddled to her little sister and pulled her out of the pool.

Soon after, a neighbor performed CPR, then paramedics arrived and took over. The baby was flown to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center where she was placed on life support for more than 24 hours.

On Wednesday, Elena was invited to be honored at a county meeting.  She and her family were reunited with the men who helped in the rescue. 

When firefighters arrived, they learned the baby escaped the home out the back door and fallen into her family's pool.   It all happened when her mom went outside to grab something from her car.

Firefighters noticing Elena was wet too and began to ask her questions.

"I asked her, 'Did you fall in the pool?' And she said, ‘No I didn't fall, I jumped!’" said Fred Barbera with the St. Lucie Co. Fire Dept.

As they continued to ask what happened, they were shocked by her brave actions.

"I asked,” Why did you jump? ‘She said because I know how to swim.’ I was going help my sister," said Elena.

Elena's mom said she doesn't actually know how to swim but she does know how to use a floatie.

Later her mom was able to figure out what happened.

"She grabbed her tube, she walked back in to the steps and she swam to her and grabbed her from the deep end up the pool and pulled her out from the deepest end of the steps.  Yu could see all the activity on the floor," said the mother.

Araceli spent more than a day on life support but pulled through with no lasting damage.

Firefighters say she's alive thanks to her big sister's quick action.

"It could've been a lot different. I did speak with the doctor and he said if it wasn't for her, the timing, everything, um who knows," said Roman Garcia with the St. Lucie County Fire Department.

Mom calls it a miracle.

"It was the hardest thing we ever had to go through. I didn't know if she was going to make it, but she did she made it," said the mother.

Firefighters say the 10-month-old likely only survived because of her sister's fast action.