Officer honored for role in rescuing child from drowning

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 1, 2023


STERLING HEIGHTS — Quick action and CPR training made all the difference in rescuing a toddler who almost drowned in a Sterling Heights swimming pool in July.

That’s what city officials concluded during their Aug. 1 meeting, when the City Council unanimously honored Sterling Heights police Officer Nathan Sears for assisting in the rescue.

During the afternoon of July 9, Lane came to the rescue to help 2-year-old Renley Bell properly breathe again following the boy’s near drowning at a pool party.

Police said they were called to the home after Renley’s father, Chuck Bell, found his son at the bottom of the pool. Then Chuck and Renley’s mother, Melanie LeBeau, worked together to perform CPR. According to police, this caused Renley to begin breathing shallowly, though the city added that he was still having difficulty doing so.

When Sears came to the scene, he reportedly performed enough back blows to force the water out of Renley’s lungs so he could properly breathe. The Sterling Heights Fire Department also arrived to assist in Renley’s treatment and hospitalization.

According to the city, Renley has since fully recovered.

“What happened here in a backyard of Sterling Heights made it around the world,” Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said, adding that the story made local, national and even international headlines in the United Kingdom.

He explained that the video footage of the rescue was viewed 4 million times on the Police Department’s Facebook page, and he hopes it’ll remind people of the hazards posed by children being near bodies of water.

During the ceremony, Chuck described what was going on prior to discovering that his son was in mortal danger.

“The first part of the morning, he had his life vest on the entire time,” Chuck said. “The ice cream truck came down the street. We went out front and came back to eat ice cream on the deck.

“He probably was not out of our sight for more than a minute or two. And there were even adults less than 3 feet away from him when I found him at the bottom of the pool.”

Chuck praised Sears’ and the Fire Department’s quick timing for treating Renley. Sears said that, as an officer, “you never want to hear this call come out over the radio, but, fortunately, I was at the right place at the right time.”

“I‘ll look back on this and be proud that I was able to help in any way I could for you guys,” Sears said. “And I commend both of you for doing CPR and recognizing this, and I’m glad Renley is here with us today.”

During the ceremony, LeBeau advocated for the importance of CPR training, and especially for pool owners.

Councilwoman Maria Schmidt, as a CPR instructor, agreed that the skill is important for everyone to know. Councilman Henry Yanez, a former firefighter, said, “I can tell you, watching that video, as someone who’s done CPR on children, my palms instantly got sweaty just watching that.”

“It just goes to show how important training is, whether you’re a uniformed officer, firefighter, police officer, whether you’re a regular citizen,” he added.

Mayor Michael Taylor spoke from his own perspective as a parent and urged Renley’s parents to not listen to any criticism on social media.

“Things happen quick, they happen fast, you get distracted, and people need to be more empathetic. They need to be more understanding,” Taylor said. “And so I wouldn’t pay attention to what any of those people say. The fact that you’re here right now telling this story is all I need to know about the character of you two, because that is an incredibly tough thing to go through.”

In addition to the City Council honoring Sears with the resolution, Sterling Heights police Chief Dale Dwojakowski issued an SHPD Challenge Coin to Renley’s family.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Police Department by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2800.