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Pittsburgh officer's off-duty heroics give toddler chance to live

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 10:23 p.m.
Pittsburgh police Officer Corey Harcha talks to the media at police headquarters in the North Side about saving a 3-year-old boy's life on Thursday while off-duty at Wildwood Highlands in Hampton.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh police Officer Corey Harcha talks to the media at police headquarters in the North Side about saving a 3-year-old boy's life on Thursday while off-duty at Wildwood Highlands in Hampton.

When a woman ran to him carrying a lifeless toddler, off-duty Pittsburgh police Officer Corey Harcha said his training kicked in.

“He was not moving. He was unconscious and his lips were blue,” Harcha said Friday at police headquarters in the North Side. “I started with chest compressions and then gave him mouth-to-mouth.”

Harcha continued rescue efforts until the boy, 2, seemingly came back to life and started to cough.

“I felt a little bit of relief,” said Harcha, a six-year veteran of the force assigned to the Zone 3 station in Allentown.

The boy remained hospitalized in critical condition a day after the incident Thursday night at Wildwood Highlands Family Fun Center in Hampton. Police did not release the identities of the child or his family members.

Harcha said he had just arrived to play miniature golf when he heard a woman screaming. She told him she was the boy's aunt.

“She was just screaming,” he said, though she wasn't saying anything that he could understand. “She ran out with the baby in her arms.”

The woman told Harcha the boy had wandered away, he said. Emergency dispatchers said someone pulled the toddler from a pond.

Hampton police referred questions to Allegheny County Police, who are investigating. Lt. Andrew Schurman did not return calls seeking comment.

Wildwood Highlands offers snow tubing, bumper boats, miniature golf, go-carts, kiddie rides and laser games. An employee who answered the phone on Friday said the company had no comment.

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said Harcha's actions show police work goes on even when an officer is out of uniform.

“It is a big deal when any of our officers can save a life, especially the life of a young child,” Richard said. “We're here to help people no matter if we're on duty or off duty.”

Pittsburgh officers are certified in CPR every two years, Richard said. The training involves learning how to perform CPR on an adult, child and infant, and includes a first aid course, she said.

“I just did what I was trained to do,” Harcha said. “We're trained to separate ourselves from what's going on when you have a job to do.”

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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