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Firefighters rescue 5-year-old boy from community pool in Chapel Hill

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 23:23:26-04

CHAPEL HILL, Tenn. (WTVF) — In the midst of this unforgiving heat wave, families across Tennessee are doing what they can to stay cool.

But a Chapel Hill family has a warning about safety after their 5-year-old son got his hand stuck in a swimming pool jet.

"I'm not really sure how it happened, but yes, his hand was definitely stuck," Chapel Hill Fire Chief Matthew Stout said.

On Tuesday, the Chapel Hill Fire Department said 5-year-old Leon Johnston got his hand stuck in a pool jet.

At first, crews attempted to get the boy's hand out using simpler methods, but it became obvious that more help was needed.

"Initially, they tried doing things like dawn and baby oil and all kinds of things like that to get his hands free but it became apparent that it wasn't going to come out without extensive work and actually removing some concrete," Stout said.

Emergency crews worked for three and half hours to free Leon. His parents, Lydia and Daniel Johnston, said it was a terrifying and agonizing wait.

"I had to explain to him it's going to take a long time. But all these guys are here to help you get out, and we will get you out," Lydia Johnston said.

Meanwhile, neighbors stepped in to help.

"Many of them helped us out. They watched our other children while this was going on. And then even there's a local company called the Air Guys. They brought them in due to the suction and to see if they had any expertise, and they ended up actually giving us a large tent over the crews because it was almost 100 degrees yesterday," Daniel Johnston said.

Thankfully, crews were able to free Leon, but officials say this is a reminder of the importance of pool safety.

"Any part of the pool — whether it's the skimmer or the jet or something like that — it could potentially pose a hazard, as we found out yesterday," Stout said.

As for the Johnstons, they said they're thankful for their hometown heroes.

"You guys were so great and keeping our spirits high and making sure we knew what was going on. And working hard to keep him safe as the whole process happened," they said.