Eleven-year-old Garret Beckham was just getting ready to shove off for a ride on his bike when he heard a sound.
The noise was unusual – “high-pitched, like an animal,” Garret recalled.
He pinpointed that it was coming from the house next to his home on Laurel Drive in Ontario.
“I realized it was someone calling for help,” Garret said.
His subsequent actions are credited with saving the life of 69-year-old Cindy Tucker.
The fifth-grade student at Alameda Elementary School was recognized with the Community Lifesaving Award in a surprise presentation on Thursday, March 23. Ontario firefighters and police showed up at what was a regular student awards assembly, calling Garret to the front of the gathering.
He was given a plaque, now hanging on the wall just inside the front door at home. He got an Ontario challenge coin and patches from the Ontario Police Department and from Ontario Fire and Rescue.
During the hubbub, he kept his calm demeanor, a trait he showed during his rescue mission on Saturday, Feb. 25.
In an interview, he was matter-of-fact in recounting what happened.
“This is how it went down,” he said, launching into a narrative.
The afternoon was cold and windy but Garret went out to his garage, got his bike and was just ready to pedal off when he heard Tucker.
He called his mother, Gwen, who was volunteering at the Ontario Feral Cat Project in downtown.
“I get this unexpected call,” Beckham said of her son. “He usually doesn’t call me.”
He told her what he heard, and she urged him to go poke his head in the front door to see if the neighbor needed help.
“I ditched my bike and ran over,” Garret said. “There was no time to waste.”
He heard Tucker calling from upstairs.
Tucker had had breakfast and went to her upstairs bathroom, planning to then tackle laundry.
“Next thing I know, I woke up and I’m trapped between the toilet and the wall,” Tucker said.
That was about 9:30 a.m. She was wedged tight, one arm pinned beneath her. She said she called out for hours.
“I thought, ‘I’m not dying here’ so I started yelling,” Tucker said.
By the time Garret heard her and arrived, she had been stuck more than six hours.
She coached Garret through unlocking her cell phone to call 911.
Lt. Allan Montgomery of Ontario Fire was among the responders.
“She was stuck,” Montgomery said. “It took everything we had to get her out of there.”
Garret stayed at the neighbor’s house as crews worked to free Tucker.
“This kid is the calmest, kind of humble,” Montgomery said. “He wasn’t all wound up.”
Tucker later shared a similar description.
“He did keep a level head,” she said. “He didn’t panic.”
Crews took her to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Ontario and then she was transferred to the Boise unit, where she spent four days. She said doctors suspected she suffered an asymptomatic heart attack. About half of all heart attacks are considered “silent” because they occur without severe symptoms.
Tucker is grateful to her young neighbor.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here,” said Tucker, who has lived in her Laurel Avenue home for 20 years.
“If he wouldn’t have heard her, she would have died right there,” Montgomery said.
Garret said he had a lesson for other kids from his experience.
“Always be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “If you think you hear a sound, investigate and call for help. Think about what would happen if you didn’t.”
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