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Niagara County deputy rescues drowning girl in Lake Ontario; father charged

A Niagara County sheriff's deputy rescued a drowning 4-year-old girl in Lake Ontario Thursday morning at Olcott Beach and authorities later charged the girl's father.

Deputy John Vosburgh responded to a call just after 8 a.m. that an unsupervised girl was in the water in the area of Krull Park, and that she appeared to be drowning, according to the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.

When Vosburgh arrived at the scene, the girl appeared to be 50 to 60 yards from the shore and drifting farther away from the shoreline, the Sheriff's Office said. As Vosburgh entered the lake, he saw her head going under the water three times. Vosburgh swam to the child, who was in water over the deputy's head, and brought her back to shore.

The child was conscious and breathing, and began to cough and vomit up large amounts of water, the Sheriff's Office said. The child was transported to Oishei Children's Hospital for evaluation.

At the time of the rescue, no parent could be located, deputies said.

At about 8:50 a.m., deputies located a nearby residence on Main Street that had the front door ajar. Inside was the child's father, who was sleeping.

Joshua A. Wankasky, 34, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, the Sheriff's Office said. He was released on an appearance ticket and is scheduled to appear in the Town of Newfane Court at 2 p.m. Nov. 6.

Speaking in a halting emotional voice, Wankasky told The Buffalo News his family is grateful to Vosburgh for his quick actions.

“We can‘t even explain how much we appreciate him being there,” Wankasky said. “If he wasn’t, I don’t know if she’d be alive.”

He said his daughter was admitted to Oishei Children’s Hospital.

“Everything checked out fine and she’s being kept overnight to keep an eye on her lungs,” Wankasky said.


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