Courtney Perkins, a lifeguard at Tarboro Community Pool, is trained to save lives, and that’s exactly what she did when she saw a girl in trouble in the diving tank.
Perkins, 17, was on duty the afternoon of July 3, when an 11-year-old girl made a decision that could have cost her her life. She couldn’t swim, yet she jumped off the lower diving board into 11-feet of water.
“She had a couple of friends with her. Her friends were pressuring her to jump in,” Perkins said. “She jumped in and obviously she couldn’t swim, so I had to jump in and save her.”
Perkins saw the girl flailing her arms around and panting and her lifeguard skills and instinct kicked in immediately. She jumped from the lifeguard stand, put her arms around the girl and got her to the ladder, where she was able to climb out of the pool.
“I just did what I was trained to do,” Perkins said. “It wasn’t something I had to think about. I just had to act on it…It’s a risk that every lifeguard has to take. It’s part of my job.”
Tyler Cannon, Community Pool manager, said Perkins is a “good lifeguard.”
“She knew exactly what to do. As soon as she saw that somebody was in trouble, she sprang into action,” Cannon said. “It’s not her first time she had to save somebody.”
Perkins is in her third year as a lifeguard for the Tarboro Parks and Recreation Department. She rescued four people in her first summer as a lifeguard, two people the second summer and one so far this summer.
“Every single one of them has been under the age of 17,” Perkins said. “They’re kids. They’re defiant.”
Perkins had told the 11-year-old girl on July 3 not to jump in the pool when she asked the girl if she could swim and got an unsure response, but the girl ultimately jumped in the deep water anyway.
As Perkins says, lifeguards have no way of anticipating every hazardous situation, which is why they have to be observant at all times.
“Any little kid could slip and fall,” she said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The key is to be prepared, which Perkins is. She has had two weeks of lifeguard training and is certified in CPR, first aid and a heart monitor test. She also has many years of experience in swimming.
“My dad (Thomas Perkins) used to be the pool manager here, and he always let me swim with the lifeguards,” Perkins said. “I came to the pool every day when I was a kid.”
A rising senior at Tarboro High School, Perkins is a member of the ROTC and aspires to become a military police officer. She said she would like to continue working as a lifeguard as a “side job” for as long as she can.