LAWRENCE, Kan. — A close call as a Lawrence preschooler dips underwater for several minutes.
A father-son team came to the rescue. First responders put together a reunion to remember, where the boy met his heroes for the second time. It only takes 60 seconds for an adult to drown and 20 seconds for a child.
A Lawrence mom is counting her blessings after a neighbor saved her 4-year-old son from drowning in their apartment complex pool. The Lawrence Police and Fire Department shared a video of the entire incident.
Last week, Xavier got out of his family’s apartment, heading straight for the pool. Mom, Alexis Rigney, said he loves to swim and is drawn to the water. Xavier has autism and is non-verbal. He found his way inside a locked gate and jumped in the water.
“He is drowning right now,” Lt. Jeff Krall said, watching the video.
Maddox Westerhaus, 12, saw the situation and ran to get his dad.
“I just saw him because my friends were yelling at me to get help,” Maddox said. “I just went, oh no and ran.”
Tom Westerhaus jumped the six-foot fence. He got Xavier out of the water and began hands-on CPR. After more than two-and-a-half minutes of chest compression, Xavier coughed up water and began crying. He’s alive.
“It definitely hits homes a lot harder having a son myself and everything,” hero, Tom Westerhaus said. “Glad everything turned out the way it did.”
Xavier was under water for three minutes and 22 seconds. Now, he’s running around the fire station energetic as ever. Rigney was happy to hug her heroes.
“I’m just glad that he’s OK now,” Rigney said. “He’s my best friend. So, I don’t know what I would do without him.”
Westerhaus and Maddox earned a Hometown Hero Award and two challenge coins.
“A challenge coin is just a symbol from the fire department that you’re a part of us and we appreciate your efforts that day,” said Division Chief Kevin Joles.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children. First responders encourage swimming lessons and lifejackets.
Lt. Jeff Krall is a paramedic. He lost his own child to drowning in 2018. Now, it’s his mission to educate others.
“The risk of drowning for children with autism is as high as ten times as greater than that of other children,” Krall said.
He encourages all kids to take swimming lessons and wear a life jacket when close to water. Lawrence Police and Safe Kids Douglas County is having an event this Saturday at the State Park, near Clinton Lake. Officers are handing out free bike helmets and life jackets to all who attend.