LITTLE CANADA, Minn. (WCCO) — A near tragedy in a backyard swimming pool managed to strengthen the bond between a man and his only grandson.

Pino Lipari, 65, grew up near the beaches of Palermo, Sicily, but has never been much of a swimmer. On June 20, he was with his grandson, Nino Johnson, in the shallow end when he slipped into deeper water and tried to paddle to the side.

“I tried to go that way,” Lipari said, “I couldn’t make it.”

“At the beginning I thought he was OK,” said Nino, 10. “Then once he started going under, I was starting to get like, What should I do? If I went and called 911, by the time I got out here he probably would’ve been under.”

Lipari was bobbing up and down, trying to tell his grandson to grab a nearby pole, but he had so much water in his chest, he had trouble speaking.

Nino weighs about 130 pounds less than his grandfather, but managed to pull and then push him to the side. It all went rather quickly, but Lipari will spend the rest of his life showing his gratitude.

“We were so close before that,” he said, “and now, what do I think about him? He’s my angel.”

Nino has thought he might go into the family restaurant business someday. But he says the thought of becoming a lifeguard seems pretty cool at this point, too.

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