8-year-old girl honored after saving drowning toddler in pool

An 8-year-old girl who saved a toddler from drowning was awarded the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s Citizen of the Year Award during a ceremony last week.

Arianna Hunter said she was in Orlando for a cheerleading competition in 2019. She was in a pool float playing in a hotel pool with her brother when she said she noticed a little girl face down in the water.

"I saw that there were bubbles by her mouth and I noticed that she wasn't moving at all," Hunter recalled.

Even though she does not know how to swim and was never specifically taught what to do during an emergency like that, Hunter did not hesitate to help.

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"I know that whenever you see somebody you want to make sure they're okay."

She flipped the girl over, pulled her to the edge of the pool while calling on nearby adults to help. They administered CPR and Orange County sheriff’s deputies soon arrived on scene. The girl was revived.

"I mean it's unbelievable. I’m sure there are adults that may freeze up in situations like that and seeing her do this, you know, it’s unbelievable," said OCSO Sergeant Menachem Green.

Sgt. Green said the sheriff looks for people who embody the spirit of the sheriff’s office when selecting someone to receive the Citizen of the Year award.

While Hunter said she appreciates the award she is also very humble about her actions.

"It’s just something that everybody should know what to do, I mean it's not like a special thing."

Hunter received an award and plaque during last week’s ceremony and shook hands with Orange County Sheriff John Mina. Her parents drove six hours from Crestview so their little girl could be honored in person for her bravery.

"I couldn't miss that for the world. We had to go for that one," said Alan Hunter, Arianna’s dad. "The fact that she could understand that somebody needed help and flipped her over and brought her to an adult, that was amazing."

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May is National Water Safety Month and OCSO is reminding parents to never leave children unattended in the water. The Florida Department of Health said every year enough children under the age of five are lost to drowning to fill three or four pre-school classrooms.

"It literally takes a second, one second to look away or be distracted and we can lose a child’s life," Sgt. Green said.

Hunter’s parents say they plan on putting her in swim lessons soon. Arianna said she wants to continue saving lives when she grows up. She wants to be a doctor.