Detention officers honored for saving life

Keasha Jennings and Deb Smith were honored in Coupeville on Monday for saving the life of a 13-year-old girl. - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Keasha Jennings and Deb Smith were honored in Coupeville on Monday for saving the life of a 13-year-old girl.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

COUPEVILLE — Two Island County juvenile detention officers, one from the South End, were honored by county commissioners Monday for reviving a 13-year-old girl who had stopped breathing.

Keasha Jennings, a 2002 graduate of South Whidbey High School, and Deb Smith, head detention officer at the Island County Juvenile Detention Facility in Coupeville, received letters of commendation from Island County Commissioner John Dean.

“I think we can all call 2008 a success when you can save a life,” Dean told the packed meeting room, where an assortment of awards were handed out to employees.

Jennings and Smith were transporting the girl from Skagit County on Friday morning, June 26, when the girl, alone in the back seat, experienced respiratory problems. She started to convulse, then stopped breathing, the pair said.

“It all happened so fast,” Jennings said. “I’m glad there were two of us.”

They stopped the car, and took turns administering CPR for more than half an hour.

“She was pale and had no pulse,” Smith said.

When the girl started to revive, “I started breathing again myself,” Jennings added.

The girl was transported by an aid car to Island Hospital in Anacortes, where she was treated and released a short time later, officials said. Jennings and Smith waited for her, and the three resumed their trip to Coupeville.

“She apparently suffered some sort of seizure,” said Gerald Murphy, manager of the detention facility. “No one was sure what caused it. She got a clean bill of health from the hospital.”

He said the girl has had no further health problems.

Jennings said she got her CPR training while working at Fire District 3 in the South End. She later worked for the county health department, then moved to the detention facility.

“When the job description came across my desk, I said, ‘Yep, that’s what I want to do,’” she said.

Of the CPR incident, Jennings added: “I’m glad we got a chance to do this. It means more than anything they give us today.”

“Absolutely,” Smith said.

“Any one of our staff could have done it,” Jennings added. “We’re all that well-trained.”

Jennings and Smith said it’s the first time either has had this kind of emergency. “And I hope it never happens again,” Jennings said.

“Absolutely,” Smith echoed.

And the girl?

“She thanked us in her own way,” Jennings said. “It’s been a joy working with her ever since. She has a lot of potential.”

Jennings’ mother, Terri Campbell of Clinton, attended Monday’s ceremony.

“I just think juvenile detention people deserve credit for the jobs they’re doing and how well-trained they are,” she said. “They saved that girl’s life.”

Roy Jacobson can be reached at 221-5300 or

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