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'It was sheer panic' | North Texas woman tried to save sisters who drowned

Ivana Mbouna, 7, and Gervina Mbouna, 5, drowned in their apartment complex pool over Labor Day weekend.

HALTOM CITY, Texas — It was Saturday evening and Melissa Norman had just finished swimming with her kids at their apartment pool when a child appeared at her door, breathless.

"We went inside, my kids were changing, we got a knock on the door. He just said, 'There's girls in the pool,'" she recalled. "He took me to the pool and he pointed down at the bottom and I just saw them both in there and I just immediately dove in."

At the bottom of the pool were two sisters, 7-year-old Ivana Mbouna and 5-year-old Gervina Mbouna. Norman recognized the girls from her Haltom City apartment complex and from her son's school.

"It was terrifying. It was absolutely terrifying," she said. She pulled the girls out of the pool and started CPR.

"It was just sheer panic, but also survival mode. I didn't even think," Norman said.

She screamed for help and another neighbor came running to give CPR to the older girl. Despite everyone's efforts, neither sister survived. Ivana died Saturday and Gervina passed away late Sunday night.

Their mother, Mylene Mbouna, told WFAA she's devastated. She said she'd left the girls with a family friend while she went to the store to buy food Saturday. Her husband was said to be out of town when this happened. The Mbouna family had only arrived from Cameroon a year ago. Ivana and Gervina were the family's only children.

"In Cameroon, that's kind of their culture. They go out and play with their friends and then they just come home," explained Sgt. Eric Peters of Haltom City Police. "Apparently during the time they were out playing with their friends, they got into the pool area and ended up falling in."

Sgt. Peters said they're looking into the circumstances around the drownings, which is protocol.

"They were wearing regular clothes," Norman said. "They were just outside playing."

Norman can't get the sisters out of her mind. She met their parents Tuesday.

"The younger one I was primarily doing CPR on, she was the one who was put on life support, so they thanked me for doing my best because at least it gave them the opportunity to say goodbye," Norman said.

It's a goodbye that came far too soon.

To find a certified CPR class near you, click here.

To learn more about drowning prevention, click here.

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