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Neighbors save Dowagiac woman from near-drowning

SISTER LAKES, Mich. - Neighbors are being called heroes in the Sister Lakes community.

Cass County Police said three people saved the life of a drowning woman Sunday on Magician Lake.

66-year-old Kathy Baliunas was swimming just before 6:30 p.m. in deep water. Witnesses told police she struggled and disappeared under the waves.

“It was something I don’t want to relive again that’s for sure,” said Baliunas son, 29-year-old Justen Waidzunas. “What can I think when I see my mom purple. I assume the worst.”

According to Waidzunas, Baliunas swam too far from her dock and couldn’t make it back to shore.

Police said two neighbors from Illinois, Juan Bethancourt and his wife, saw Baliunas in the water and pulled them into their boat. They took Baliunas to her dock and began administering CPR.

Shelly Hennen, another neighbor and 36-year registered nurse, came from across the street to see what the commotion was about. “When I could see what was going on I was running,” said Hennen.

Hennen took a pulse from Baliunas and instructed the others to flip her on her side. “She was able to clear her lungs out and breathing started to go a bit better,” said Hennen.

When medics arrived Baliunas was awake and talking.

“[I feel] really lucky,” said Waidzunas. “Very grateful.”

Baliunas was released from the hospital early Monday morning and is in good condition.


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