Phoenix first responders recall near-drowning, meet boy who recovered

Jun 9, 2021, 4:45 AM | Updated: 7:40 am
(KTAR News photo/Ali Vetnar)...
(KTAR News photo/Ali Vetnar)
(KTAR News photo/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX – 911 calls involving children are considered to be one of the worst parts of the job for first responders, especially when it involves a drowning.

But on Tuesday, Phoenix police and firefighters were able to reunite and officially meet a toddler they helped save back in April after he was pulled from a pool pulseless.

“It’s absolutely insane,” Anthony Adelman told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Adelman is a paramedic with the Phoenix Fire Department. He was able to get 22-month-old Justin Alvarez’s heartbeat back moments before arriving at the hospital.

“Going from trying to create that unemotional attachment at first, like we have a job to do and let’s get it done – now seeing him, it hits you way different after the fact, it’s amazing to see him running and playing,” Adelman said.

Adelman and his fire crew officially met both Justin and his mom, Erica, on Tuesday at Phoenix Fire Station 61. Phoenix police officer Shelby Meinhardt joined the event.

She was the first to respond to the 911 call in Phoenix. She heard the call come in at the very end of her shift as she was driving back to her police station.

“Honestly, I was a little stressed,” Meinhardt said.

“You hate to get those calls, it’s probably the worst call you can get. But I just ran into the backyard and saw mom doing CPR, I was afraid I would hesitate because of the severity of the call but I guess my training just kicked in,” she recalled and smiled.

The quick action to begin chest compression from both Justin’s mother and Officer Meinhardt is believed to have set up Justin for the best chance of survival.

Mayor Kate Gallego, Phoenix Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner and Phoenix Police Executive Assistant Chief Michael Kurtenbach were all in attendance.

They congratulated the first responders on their quick-thinking and heroic actions.

Justin Alvarez is happy and healthy and about to turn two years old. During the drowning prevention and awareness event, the toddler played with the first responders who helped save his life.

His mother continued to thank both the police and firefighters who responded to her home back in April.

“The day we got out of the hospital I was like, ‘I want every one of their names, their phone numbers – I want to thank each and every one of them and for them to see how well he’s doing,” Alvarez said.

She hopes her family’s story shows others that this can happen to anyone. She said the traumatic incident happened in a matter of seconds.

KTAR News and Fulton Homes want to remind you that two seconds is too long to take your eyes off kids near water. To learn more about this campaign, visit the website

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Phoenix first responders recall near-drowning, meet boy who recovered