Looking down into the pool, John Strang was sure the child was dead.
What he did next kept 2-year-old Byron Murray from becoming a tragic newspaper headline.
On July 17, Strang, an Iraq war veteran, used CPR training he learned in the Army to resuscitate his friend's son, who climbed into a pool behind his house in rural Aiken County. Byron's father wasn't home at the time, but he says that even if he had been there he couldn't have done what Strang did.
That afternoon, Strang was working in New Holland, where he has been helping his friend Chad Barker take apart an old mobile home on his family's property that was being salvaged for scrap. Barker, a single father, was at work, and his son Byron and three older children played in the yard. A babysitter and Byron's grandmother were inside.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
One of the children ran up to Strang.
“Johnny, you need to get Byron. He's in the pool,” the child said. “He's drowning.”
Strang said he ran behind the house to an above-ground pool with sides about 5 feet high.
There was no splashing. Strang said at first he thought Byron wasn't in the pool.
Then he saw him at the bottom, face down, not moving.
“Blue as a Smurf,” said Strang, 24. “Unnatural. I've never seen that before.”
Instinct took over. Strang leaned over the side of the pool and pulled Byron out, ordering one of the children to call 911.
“I knew through training, when you pull someone out of the water like that, do CPR, no matter what you think. Just do it.”
He put the child down and tilted his head back, clearing his mouth with a finger sweep. Covering Byron's nose and mouth with his own mouth, he blew in two quick breaths. Then he started chest compressions.
For two or three minutes, Strang said, he went through the cycle over and over, screaming and praying. Byron vomited. After more cycles, he coughed. Then his eyes twitched. He vomited several more times and finally started breathing again.
Byron went by ambulance to Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center and stayed overnight.
On Friday, he darted around his father's house like any toddler, giving Strang a thumbs-up, then trying to put a Spider-Man hat on his head over the cap he already wore.
His father said he has made a complete recovery.