A Metro Vancouver man who learned CPR more than 25 years ago is being hailed as a hero for springing into action and saving a toddler from drowning in a backyard pool in an upscale Surrey, B.C., neighbourhood.

The two-and-a-half year old, Brooklyn, managed to get past a gate and fell into the pool Wednesday around 6 p.m.

The girl's mother pulled the unconscious youngster from the water after finding her lying unresponsive and face-down.

Mario Knezevic, who was visiting a neighbour, ran outside when he heard the woman's screams.

He grabbed the little girl and immediately began administering CPR on the pool deck.

"When I saw her blue mouth, almost black, I didn't think she'd ever come back," he told CTV News.

"Six times I pumped her and nothing happened, she didn't give me any signs of life. And I started to blow and I was pushing and her water came back into my mouth so I spit it out. And I pushed again and I saw her eyes coming open."

Knezevic said the CPR training he learned in Croatia 26 years ago came flooding back to him when he saw the girl in distress, but he was terrified that something would go wrong.

"I was just thinking if she was going to die on me I would have to deal with that for the rest of my life," he said. "It wasn't her time to die."

Another neighbour, a doctor, took over compressions until an air ambulance arrived and transported the girl to BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver. Police estimate the tot was in the pool for less than five minutes.

In an email to CTV News, the girl's mother, Leslie, said Brooklyn was breathing on her own and has made a full recovery.

"Thank you to all who helped and to Mario for being our daughter's guardian angel."

Leslie and her family are visiting B.C.'s Lower Mainland from Kelowna.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and four, according to the BC Children's Hospital. Twenty per cent of near-drowning survivors sustain permanent brain damage.

Every year in B.C., 43 people die from drowning, and 285 more are hospitalized for close calls.