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Toddler nearly drowns in South Greensburg pool

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, May 12, 2012, 5:04 a.m.

A 23-month-old South Greensburg toddler nearly drowned Monday afternoon when she wandered alone into a backyard swimming pool at the home of a family friend.

Bailie Marie Zilli, the daughter of Tom and Nikki Zilli, of Elm Street, was in critical condition last night at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, a hospital spokesman said. The spokesman declined to release any details about the condition of the girl, who had been flown to Pittsburgh by a medical helicopter.

The accident occurred when the girl walked out the back door of Rick and Jenny Earle's home at 1412 Poplar St., South Greensburg, down the steps, onto the adjacent pool deck and then into an above-ground pool, South Greensburg police Chief Scott Fanchalsky said.

Rick Earle is a reporter for WPXI television station in Pittsburgh. He said he was in Pittsburgh when he was notified of the accident.

The girl, who will turn 2 on Aug. 1, was discovered face down in the pool by a teenage baby sitter, who went into the house and notified Nikki Zilli, who had arrived to pick up her daughter. Zilli pulled her daughter from the pool, Fanchalsky said. The chief, who was notified of the accident at 4:40 p.m., said he did not know how long the girl had been in the water before she was discovered, or the depth of the water.

The girl's mother was screaming for help and ran to the front porch of the house, said Russell Bell, of Hempfield Township, who was fixing a screen for a friend yesterday afternoon at 1414 Poplar St.

"It was a real deathly scream," Bell said.

The mother laid the baby on a welcome mat outside the front door and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Bell said he ran to help, pumping on the toddler's chest. Zilli was receiving instructions from a Westmoreland County 911 dispatcher, and the two of them were able to push some water out of the girl's body, he said.

South Greensburg fire Chief Tom Lakin Jr. said the firefighters administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation until a Mutual Aid Ambulance Service crew arrived at the scene.

Firefighters were on the scene "within seconds," Lakin said. The fire hall is about a block from the Earles' home.

The girl was taken to Westmoreland Regional Hospital in Greensburg before being flown to Pittsburgh.

Fanchalsky still was investigating the accident last night. He said there were five teenagers at the Earles' house at the time of the incident; he did not know how many children were there.

The Earles' neighbors, Bob and Patty Beam, of 1402 Poplar St., said they were concerned when they saw a small, blonde girl walk out the Earles' backdoor and down the steps toward the pool. Bob Beam said two boys playing outside the Earles' house told them "someone was in the back" watching the girl.

"We thought everything was all right. We would have went over there if we thought no one was there (rear of the house)," Patty Beam said.

Fanchalsky said he did not know if any charges would be filed as a result of the accident. Westmoreland County Detective Timothy Sethman, a member of the county's records and identification team, was contacted by police to take photographs at the scene.

The news director for WPXI, Pat Maday, released a statement last night calling it a tragic accident.

"Our hearts and prayers are extended to the Zilli family. Our thoughts are also with the Earle family. Rick and Jenny Earle have known little Bailie.

"We are all hoping Bailie has a successful recovery," Maday said in the statement.

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