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How a boy saved his drowning brother’s life — with help from the Rock’s ‘San Andreas’

Michigan boy saves drowning little brother, credits movie starring ‘The Rock’
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson called a 10-year-old Jacob O’Connor a hero after the boy saved his younger brother from drowning by performing chest compressions, which he learned from watching the movie “San Andreas.” (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

Jacob O’Connor saw his baby brother’s shoe floating in the pool first.

Then he saw his body.

It had been just a week since the 10-year-old Michigan boy last watched his favorite movie, “San Andreas,” an action drama that stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rescuing his family from two hours of tragedy — an earthquake, a tsunami and, most relevant to Jacob, a near-drowning.

Johnson’s character pulls his unconscious daughter from floodwaters and gives her CPR, first in a collapsing building, then in a boat. Finally, she spits up water.

Jacob O’Connor, 10 (right), with his brothers: 2-year-old Dylan (center) and 8-year-old Gavin (left). (Courtesy of Christa O’Connor)

So as Jacob pulled his 2-year-old brother Dylan from the pool and laid him on the deck, his mind channeled the action hero.

“The movie just popped up in my head and I started thinking about that scene,” Jacob, of Roseville, Mich., told The Washington Post. “And that’s when I started doing the compressions.”

For half a minute, Jacob said he pushed and pushed until Dylan’s “heart started pumping.” And then, just like the character’s daughter, Jacob’s brother “vomited a little water.”

Now, nearly a month later, Dylan has fully recovered and Jacob is being hailed a hero — by his family, local law enforcement and Johnson himself.

“You’re a real life hero,” Johnson wrote in one of four tweets about Jacob’s actions. “We’re all proud of you!”

Wow amazing story. Giving you a Twitter 🙌🏾 Jacob for saving your little brother’s life. You’re a real life hero. We’re all proud of you!

The boys’ mother, Christa O’Connor, told The Post that she shared details of the July 25 incident with her hometown newspaper, C&G Newspapers, last week. In the days since, Jacob’s story has been published across the country and the world.

The Rock tweeted several of them, thanking “media friends for covering such an inspiring story.”

“What a brave (and calm) 10yr old boy in the face of that heightened distress,” Johnson wrote Thursday.

Real life hero 10yr old Jacob O’Connor found his 2yr old brother, Dylan lying face down in their pool. Amazing story. Amazing boy.

Jacob, who starts the fifth grade next month, isn’t so sure about all the fanfare. When asked if he feels like a hero, the boy responded with a “kind of.”

But Fire Chief Michael Holland is more certain.

“What an amazing thing, at 10 years old, to think in that stressful situation about what the right thing to do for your younger brother is — that’s stunning,” Holland told C&G Newspaper.

On the day of the incident, Jacob was in between episodes of “Lego Ninjago” with his brothers when he realized 2-year-old Dylan was gone — and the door to the backyard was wide open.

Jacob O’Connor’s 2-year-old brother, Dylan, recovers in the hospital after nearly drowning on July 25. (Courtesy of Christa O’Connor)

Moments before, the toddler had been dancing in the kitchen, waiting for his Nana to put him down for a nap. Jacob was keeping an eye on him. But somehow, the boy said, Dylan managed to open the sliding door and get in the pool.

After giving Dylan chest compressions, Jacob said he ran inside to retrieve his grandmother, Ellen Viau. She resumed CPR on the toddler and called 911.

O’Connor was at work, cleaning a mansion 45 minutes away, when she learned what had happened. Viau, her mother, called from the ambulance as it sped toward St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. At the hospital, she found Dylan lying in bed on oxygen with two IVs hooked up to his arm.

“I lost it,” she told The Post. “I bawled my eyes out.”

That was before she learned what Jacob had done. Once Dylan was stabilized at the hospital, O’Connor ran home to talk with Jacob. They sat on the front porch and O’Connor asked her eldest son where he had learned to do chest compressions.

“I saw it in a movie,” she remembers him saying.

“What movie?” she asked.

“San Andreas,” Jacob replied. “With the Rock.”

Dylan was discharged from the hospital the day after the incident with no apparent neurological damage, O’Connor said. “I feel blessed,” she told The Post.

In the last two days, reporters from Britain and “Good Morning America” have reached out. Perhaps Ellen DeGeneres will be next, Jacob hopes, or maybe even the Rock.

O’Connor created a Twitter account this week for that very purpose.

“PLEASE make his dream come true,” she tweeted to The Rock. “He deserves it! Meet & greet?”

Carla Gugino as Emma and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Ray in the action thriller “San Andreas.” (Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. Entertainment)