LAWRENCE, Kan. (WDAF) — 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 autistic, nonverbal 4-year-old son from drowning in their apartment complex pool.
Last week, Xavier, who loves to swim, got out of his family’s apartment, heading straight for the pool. He somehow found his way inside their locked, gated pool and jumped into the water.
The Lawrence Police and Fire Department shared a video of the entire incident, which can be viewed above.
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 said. “Glad everything turned out the way it did.”
Xavier was underwater for three minutes and 22 seconds. Now, he’s running around the fire station energetic as ever.
His mother, Alexis Rigney, was happy to hug her heroes.
“I’m just glad that he’s OK now,” Alexis said. “He’s my best friend. So, I don’t know what I would do without him.”
Tom 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, Division Chief Kevin Joles said.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children.
First responders encourage swimming lessons and life jackets.
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 10 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.