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    Rescued boy saved from fate of brother

    The 3-year-old whom an officer rescued from a pond lost a sibling to drowning. His mother vows the boy now will learn to swim.

    By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 10, 2002


    CLEARWATER -- When 19-month-old Devin Barina died after falling into a swimming pool three years ago, his family found the strength to carry on in the form of his younger brother, Logan.

    Logan Barina was only about 2 months old when his brother died. The mother of both boys, Trisha Letts, wished Devin had learned to swim.

    But Letts feared allowing her surviving son in the water. He grew into a giggly 3-year-old. But henever learned to swim.

    After three years of struggling with her fears, Letts finally had decided last week to enroll Logan in swimming lessons.

    But on Monday afternoon, while Letts was in the bathroom, Logan opened the back door for the family Labrador, Simba. For some reason, Logan decided to go outside, too.

    He headed out the gate of the family home, which is southwest of Clearwater Mall. He wandered down the street, past about a dozen houses. Then he came upon the pond.

    It didn't take long for Letts to realize her son was gone. The house was too quiet. The back gate was open. She ran outside and looked for him, screamed his name. When there was no answer, she called 911.

    When Clearwater police Officer John Bennett arrived minutes later, Letts was hysterical. A passer-by and neighbor told the officer they had seen a small child near the pond. Bennett hit his lights and sirens and headed toward there.

    When Bennett arrived at the pond, he saw Logan floating still and face-up in the water. Another passer-by had tried to get the boy, but the man was stuck in the mud. Bennett threw off his gun belt and dove into the smelly water, quickly reaching Logan.

    His body was limp. He had no breath. Was this a tragic second drowning?

    "What are the odds of the same scenario happening three years later?" asked Tracey Ethridge, Logan's aunt.

    Bennett brought the boy to shore and gave him CPR. Bennett tried a set of chest compressions, then a set of breaths. Then he gave another set of compressions and began more breaths.

    Logan started to whimper. His eyes fluttered. He coughed up water. And he started to cry. His mother ran up just as the child regained consciousness.

    Paramedics took Logan to Mease Countryside Hospital, where he was kept overnight for evaluation and released Tuesday evening.

    "I owe Officer Bennett my life," Letts said Tuesday evening. "He is my son's guardian angel."

    Police said they saw no signs of neglect in the accidental near-drowning. Ethridge said it was the first time Logan had followed the dog outside. It also was the first time Logan had been near the pond.

    Logan doesn't understand what happened to him. Not long after arriving at the hospital, he was laughing with the nurses and eating chocolate ice cream.

    "He's back to his 3-year-old self," Ethridge said. "He's laughing and he's joking and playing with balloons. They (nurses) made balloons out of rubber gloves."

    Letts said tests showed the boy didn't suffer any brain damage. He was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health.

    Logan's older brother, Devin, was in the care of other family members in Largo when he fell into a 4-foot-deep pool in June 1999. He died several days later after being taken off life-support at All Children's Hospital.

    After Devin's death, Letts told the Times she was waiting until he turned 2 years old to teach him how to swim. It was a wait she regretted.

    Since then, Logan has very rarely gone in the water, usually only around his father, Ronald Barina, in the shallows. But now, his mother says she will swallow her fear and make sure her son learns to swim.

    "He will start swimming lessons next week," she said. "That's the bottom line. Everybody needs to learn to swim in the state of Florida. And they need to start when they're babies."

    -- Chris Tisch can be reached at (727) 445-4156 or tisch@sptimes.com.

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