Milton fifth-grader saves friend’s life

Quinnlan Kittson (second from right) accepts Milton Police Department’s Citizen Lifesaving Award on Monday, April 17. The 10-year-old was recognized for saving his 11-year-old friend Hannah Danaher’s life after she fell in a septic tank on April 8 in Albany, Vt. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

Milton fifth-graders can count a new hero among their ranks in Quinnlan Kittson, a 10-year-old who saved his friend’s life earlier this month.

Quinnlan was honored with a Milton Police Department Citizen Lifesaving Award in a small ceremony Monday for his heroic acts, which took place April 8 in Albany, Vt.

Quinnlan and his family were visiting the Danahers, who just moved from Milton, that springlike day. The kids were excited to explore the new backyard, where the snow had begun to melt, and didn’t see the green cover to the home’s septic tank.

“Hannah didn’t think anything of walking over it,” her mom, Shannon Danaher, said. “She stepped on it, and it flipped.”

Hannah, 11, grabbed onto the edge but could feel the negative suction pulling her in. She was chest deep in the ice cold sewage when Quinnlan dropped his jacket and rushed into action, keeping her from falling in.

“I thought I was gonna die,” Hannah said. “I felt a pipe in the water, and I tried to put my foot on it, but my foot kept slipping.”

Quinnlan maintained eye contact and assured Hannah she could hold on. Meanwhile, Hannah’s brother, Kaiden, was in shock watching this unfold. Quinnlan and Hannah’s screams shook him from his state, and he rushed inside to get help.

Danaher and Tabatha Kittson, Quinnlan’s mother, admit their children can be dramatic, but something was telling about her son’s message that Hannah had fallen down a hole.

“There was something pulling at our hearts,” Kittson said.

Hannah said when their moms arrived, Quinnlan still didn’t want to let go. It took both Danaher and Kittson’s full strength to pull her out of the tank, which Danaher described as quicksand. Later, the parents saw Quinn’s grip had left fingernail marks in Hannah’s skin.

Once pulled to safety, Hannah realized what her friend had done.

“I hugged my mom, and I think all I could say for the rest of the night was like, ‘Quinn saved my life,’” she said.

On Monday, donning a bright floral dress and a big smile, Hannah calmly recalled the day’s events, teasing her mom for weeping during her retelling.

Student resource officer Cpl. Scott Philbrook presents a lifesaving award to Quinnlan Kittson (right), who saved his friend Hannah (center) from falling into a septic tank. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

Kittson said her son learned basic first aid as a member of Milton’s Cub Scout Pack 43. The incident’s timing was symbolic: On Friday, Quinnlan will cross over to Boy Scouts, having earned the Arrow of Light award, the highest in Cub Scouting. Danaher also appealed to the national Boy Scouts of America council for a Lifesaving Award.

“It’s very interesting to see something that he learned a couple years ago and applying it to save this beautiful little girl,” she said.

Danaher contacted Milton police and rescue crews to express her gratitude, and hearing the story, school resource officer Cpl. Scott Philbrook thought Quinnlan was deserving of the honor.

“I knew I needed to do something to recognize the quick actions taken by Quinnlan which will forever have an impact on his life as well as the life he saved,” Philbrook told the assembled fifth grade on Monday. “Despite the continued praise by his family, he’s remained extremely humble through the whole process.”

Indeed, Quinnlan matter-of-factly answered questions from his peers and smiled for photos when asked, nervous about the television cameras at the impromptu news conference in the school cafeteria.

“I think I did the right thing,” Quinnlan said.

Undoubtedly, the Danahers agree.

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