O'Keefe - only a few blocks away when the call came in over the radio - arrived first on the scene and found the father applying cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the girl. The girl was not breathing and O'Keefe could not find a pulse. O'Keefe, who was trained in First Responder techniques, took over.
Police Officer Donald O'Keefe, a resident of Secaucus, revived a 3-year-old girl who had fallen into a swimming pool during a birthday party.
Apparently no one had noticed the girl exit the house during the party, and the father just happened to be returning from the store when he saw her in the pool and pulled her out. She had been in the pool for about five minutes.
As an officer in the Hudson County police department, O'Keefe had responded to such situations before, helping in cases in which kids had fallen into in local rivers.
As O'Keefe worked on the 3-year-old girl, his treatment did not seem to be succeeding. He later said that at that point, he began to pray.
O'Keefe said he just wanted the girl to take a breath. Eventually the child coughed and moved a foot. Moments later, the state police helicopter arrived to take the girl off to the hospital miles away.
O'Keefe later described the moment as "a miracle" and said watching the girl take that breath was one of the biggest thrills of his life.
Secaucus held a brief ceremony last month in Town Hall to honor O'Keefe.
"He was born and raised in Secaucus," said Councilman Robert Kickey. "When he came on the scene in the back yard, that girl was not breathing. He worked feverishly and brought her back to life. We think that's worthy of recognition."
Mayor Dennis Elwell said he thought Secaucus should do something for one of its residents.
"He did a fine job and has won commendations from police all over the state," he said. "But he started out in Hudson County and he still lives here. And we wanted recognize him for his efforts."