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Swift action saves 4-year-old in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. - Grand Rapids, Minn., police Sgt. Steve Schaar has been a police officer for 20 years, but he said helping save the life of a 4-year-old girl made Monday the best day of his career.

The child, Anastacia Beekmann of Warba, had improved to fair condition on Wednesday at St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth. She had been listed in critical condition on Monday after being pulled unconscious from Forest Lake at Blandin Beach in Grand Rapids.

The little girl's survival hinged on several people who were in the right place at the right time and responded quickly.

According to police and witness reports:

Carolyn Olson, 36, was standing on the shoreline watching her children at Blandin Beach when a girl, who appeared to be between 6 and 10 years old, approached her.

"She asked if anyone could go out by the buoys," Olson recalled on Wednesday. "She said there's a little girl floating out there."

Olson waded toward the buoys and quickly saw Anastacia floating in about 5 feet of water about 10 yards from shore. "She was not looking good," Olson said. She carried the girl to shore. "I was screaming, 'Call 911. Call 911.' "

A bystander, Benjamin Upah of Belle Plaine, Iowa, began CPR on Anastacia.

Schaar and Officer Matthew Gookins were nearby when the call came at 2:21 p.m. and were at the scene within 45 seconds, Schaar said. Schaar took over chest compressions and Gookins cleared the child's airway. Within five minutes of starting CPR they had a pulse, Schaar said.

Anastacia was taken by ambulance to Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital in Grand Rapids and then airlifted to SMDC.

Although Blandin Beach is designated as a swimming area, this is the fourth season it has been without lifeguards, said Dale Anderson, director of Parks and Recreation for the city. Anderson said Monday's incident was the first near-drowning at the beach in the 10 years he has been with the department.

Schaar, 42, returned to Grand Rapids, his hometown, to join the police force 14 years ago. "I've been involved in numerous life-saving situations, but this was the first one involving a child," he said. "That was the best day of my career right there."