North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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July 24, 2012

Gardendale girl drowns while saving younger brother (updated)

A nine-year-old Gardendale girl drowned Sunday while saving the life of her brother.

Brandi Odom was visiting her grandparents in the community of Bear Creek, located between Haleyville and Phil Campbell in Winston County. The girl and her two brothers, ages 6 and 7, were playing in a pond when one of the brothers got into deep water. Brandi pulled him out, then fell into deep water herself.

Her grandmother pulled Brandi out and administered CPR wile the brother dialed 911, according to Haleyville cable channel HBTV’s website.

Firefighters arrived minutes later and took over CPR, then transported her to a Haleyville hospital, where she died.

“This is a tragedy but she gave her life to save her little brother. She is a hero,” Bear Creek Fire and Rescue Chief Rob Taylor said.

Brandi’s mother, Paula, said the children weren’t even supposed to be in the pond yet when the accident happened. “They were supposed to be waiting for their grandmother before they went in, but they didn’t,” she said.

Brandi Odom was a student at Gardendale Elementary, where she would have entered the fourth grade in August. Principal Ellen Andrews recalled Brandi as someone who would have done just what she did for her brother.

“She was a very loving child who very much wanted to please and help,” Andrews said. “Some children are natural-born helpers, and she was one of them. This just breaks my heart.”

Brandi’s death has hit Andrews’ staff hard, even during the summer break when they don’t see their students as often.

“My teachers are upset because they’ve had Brandi or her brothers. It’s a great loss for our student body. We comfort each other — we’re a very strong faculty. We rely on a strength that is greater than our own,” Andrews said.

For grade school children to whom death is either unknown or very abstract, the passing of a classmate is a tougher situation.

“Our two counselors, B.J. Hale and Ellen Irvin, will be available for any student or parent,” Andrews said. “Since it’s about a month before children report to class, they’ll know about this information and will have talked about it with their parents before school starts. If parents have any question on how to talk to their child about this, they can call us at the school.”

Visitation is 1-2 p.m. Friday, with the service to follow at Ridout’s Gardendale Chapel on Decatur Highway.

[Updated at 3 p.m. Tuesday.]

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