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Call him a hero – how this quick-thinking 10-year-old saved a toddler’s life

Ten-year-old Joseph Ray, left, sits with Carrboro police officer Steven Dixon on Wednesday after receiving the department’s Lifesaver Award. Ray saved a 15-month-old girl from drowning on July 4.
Ten-year-old Joseph Ray, left, sits with Carrboro police officer Steven Dixon on Wednesday after receiving the department’s Lifesaver Award. Ray saved a 15-month-old girl from drowning on July 4. jjohnson@heraldsun.com

Across the nation, July 4 was a deadly day for drownings — but not in Carrboro thanks to the quick reactions of a 10-year-old.

Joseph Ray saved a toddler from drowning at an apartment complex pool in Carrboro. He pulled a 15-month-old girl from the pool at the Carolina Apartments after he noticed that she had tipped out of a float and was sinking.

“I saw the baby sinking to the bottom of the pool, and I jumped in and saved the baby,” Joseph said. “I carried her out of the water. I didn’t see it happen, but I think she just tipped over.”

His heroism likely saved the girl’s life, said Carrboro police officer Steven Dixon, who responded to the 911 call.

“I thought it was amazing because there were all these adults around, and he was the only one who recognized that this kid was in trouble,” Dixon said. “He had the awareness to swim over and save her life.”

Joseph was honored Wednesday by the Carrboro Police Department with its Lifesaver Award. His actions also earned him a trip to Wal-Mart to pick out a reward.

Joseph didn’t know the little girl was an upstairs neighbor when it happened, said his mom, Tina Ongoro.

“We’re friends with the mom and she’s let him see the baby because he’s been so worried about her,” Ongoro said. “The baby is doing great now.”

After Joseph pulled the girl out of the pool, police and emergency personnel were called. Dixon was the first on the scene, he said.

“The infant was already out of the pool,” Dixon said. “We were able to get her to spit up some of the water.”

She was taken to UNC Hospitals for treatment and observation, Ongoro said.

Dixon then found out that Ray was the lifesaver.

“I went over to the pool to say ‘Hey,’ to the kids in the pool,” Dixon said. “All the kids said Joseph swam over and pulled the baby out of the pool.”

That’s what prompted Dixon to nominate Joseph for the Lifesaver Award.

Joseph’s bravery was also recognized by the apartment complex, which also gave him a gift card.

“I was very proud of him,” Ongoro said. “It made me feel like I had taught them the right things. I’ve always wanted my kids to be gentle and be nice and to help others if they need it.”

Carrboro police also honored another 12-year-old for her bravery in alerting them to a separate domestic violence incident. Gabriella Scialoia received a framed certificate from the police department citing her heroism.

She called 911 after seeing a neighbor being assaulted in the front yard of the apartment complex. Her description of the assailant and her calmness on the phone helped police make an arrest in the case, according to police spokesman Chris Atack.

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