Monday, November 12 , 2018, 7:51 pm | Fair 59º


Santa Maria CHP Officer Heralded for Saving Boy from Near Drowning

Mark Naylor's training kicked in as he performed lifesaving measure on 8-year-old

Seeing a man carrying a limp boy from a swimming pool, off-duty California Highway Patrol officer Mark Naylor’s training immediately kicked in, and he began performing lifesaving measures on Alex Huffman in late May.

For his quick actions, Naylor, obviously uncomfortable with being in the spotlight, was recognized with the CHP’s Lifesaving Action Award on Thursday afternoon in Santa Maria as his fellow officers and top-ranking CHP officials gathered along with the family of the rescued boy.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to thank the man who saved your son’s life — no better feeling,” said Orcutt resident Larry Huffman, Alex's father. 

Law enforcement officers often have to defend their actions and rarely get celebrated for them, noted Lt. Alex Carrillo, commander of the CHP’s Santa Maria office.

“When we have the opportunity to recognize and commend one of our own, it’s really a pleasure,” Carrillo added.

Local residents notified CHP commanders about Naylor’s actions deserving of recognition, and the approval of the award went up the ranks from the local office to the division office to CHP Commissioner Joseph A Farrow.

Chief Reggie Chappelle of the CHP’s Coastal Division, which spans from Santa Cruz to Ventura counties, presented Naylor with the certificate of commendation.

Chappelle noted that law enforcement officers are never off duty.

“Usually that means you behave yourself because people are watching, but on a day like today, it also means that it if it wasn’t for Mark Naylor’s training, things could have turned out a lot worse,” Chappelle said.

“For me personally, I’ve never had the opportunity to present an award like this,” Carrillo said, noting he has been with the CHP for 30 years. 

Naylor was at a private barbecue and pool party in Orcutt where he noticed a man suddenly diving into a pool and resurfacing while holding an apparently lifeless 8-year-old Alex. 

Naylor acted immediately, noting the boy wasn’t breathing and that his eyes were fixed and dilated. He gave several rescue breaths and felt for the boy’s pulse, Carrillo said. 

Naylor continued giving rescue breaths and pulse monitoring before Alex revived and began breathing on his own.

A Santa Barbara County Fire Department crew, including firefighter Paul Christensen, arrived, and Alex was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

He has since fully recovered. 

“Without Officer Naylor's immediate response and lifesaving actions, it’s unlikely this child would have survived the incident,” Carrillo said.

Doug Coleman, representing Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, presented a certificate of recognition to Naylor, calling him a “true hero of this community and this young boy over here.”

Carrillo also recognized Alex’s brother, 11-year-old Aric, for his actions that day.

The boys' parents, Cindy and Larry Huffman, sat in the audience.

“When he noticed that his younger brother was at the bottom of the pool, he’s the one that really reacted, really showed some bravery, because many of us wouldn’t have known what to do,” Carrillo said, noting Aric alerted his father. “It really showed a lot of bravery, because like I said, many of us would freeze, not know what to do, not react at all, but he did.”

“You did a real outstanding job, I think everyone around here agrees with me,” Castillo told Aric before pinning a small CHP badge on the boy’s collar and later giving Alex one also.

CHP officers spend 20 to 30 percent of their time in training, which includes lifesaving measures that must be retained until needed, Chappelle noted. 

“I really appreciate this very much. It means a lot. It’s overwhelming to me having everybody here like this,” Naylor said as his family watched. “I feel very grateful for the training we got, and I was able to help. I really don’t know what else to say. It’s really overwhelming. I didn’t expect all this.” 

The “real heroes” of the rescue, Naylor added, were the boy’s father and brother.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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