Caroline County family credits their dog & a local med-flight crew for saving little girl

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A local med-flight crew is being honored for saving a 2-year-old girl’s life after she got lost in the woods with her family’s dog.

According to Virginia State Police, the Caroline County girl chased after the family’s yellow lab mix, and ended up lost in the woods on Friday, March 27.

The med-flight crew who saved her are being given a Chesterfield Fire and EMS life-saving award for their actions almost a year later. 

“We’re always responding to calls for critically ill and sick people,” said Nik Ronesi, one of the med-flight first responders who saved the child. “So to have such an outcome where a… cute girl is able to walk around and greet us today has been amazing.”

Ronesi, a Chesterfield County Fire and EMS flight paramedic, assisted the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office in the search for the girl, along with VCU Health flight nurse Jamie Graff and First Sgt. Pilot Jeff Bush with Virginia State Police aviation. The whole crew said saving Makenna was a team effort. 

The little girl’s mother, Harley Carter, said that day still haunts her.

“I get back to the trampoline,” she said. “I see the shoes and I don’t see her. I don’t see the dog.”

On that March day, Carter said she left her daughter, Makenna’s, side for a matter of seconds. It was just enough time for the pup and almost 3-year-old to wander, shoe-less, far into the woods behind their home in Caroline county.

“I was just frantically running through the woods hollering for her,” Carter said. However, she couldn’t find her daughter anywhere.

After all that, the child was luckily just left with a few scratches. 

Family, neighbors, sheriff’s deputies and k9’s searched for the 2-year-old on land while the med flight team took to the sky.

“Everybody was like you need to calm down, and everything,” Carter said. “But as a mother, there’s no calming down when you can’t find your child.”

Up in the sky, Ronsei said Graff, the flight nurse, was using a forward-looking infrared device to find heat signatures while he and first sergeant Bush used their eyes to try to locate the child and pet.

The mom said Makenna and their dog, Titan, were lost for about three hours before the flight crew finally spotted the dog’s bright collar, lowered down and found Makenna soaking wet in a swamp.

After all that, the child was luckily just left with a few scratches. 

“She even says Titan protected me,” Carter told 8News. “She said at one point, she was going under the water and he actually pulled her out.”

Makenna told 8News the dog “dig a doggie paddle” and kept her safe. 

Carter said says she’s learned her lesson: don’t underestimate how far a toddler can get in less than a minute.

The family wants to thank all the first responders and neighbors who helped find the little girl that day. 

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