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drowning; pool; surveillance video
Photo by Lavi Perchik on Unsplash

Neighbor saves boy drowning in pool.

Most people don’t wake up and wonder how they can become a hero that day. In most instances, it’s about being in the right place at the right time and acting on instinct. That’s what happened when Kansas resident Tom Westerhaus was alerted by his 12-year-old daughter, Maddox, that their neighbor’s preschooler had fallen into the pool. The dad, who had been trained as a lifeguard in his youth, went directly to his training, even though it had been years since he took the required classes. He dived in and was able to pull the 4-year-old out of the pool and immediately begin chest compressions. The child had been submerged for more than three minutes.


The boy's mother, Alexis Rigney, was living many parents' worst nightmare. The mom-of-two said she was taking care of her 4-month-old when she noticed her door was open and her older child was missing. Rigney reported that her son, Xzavier, has autism and when she ran outside to locate him, she heard sirens. Thanks to her neighbor's heroic instinct, her child began breathing on his own after more than two minutes of chest compressions.

Paramedics arrived shortly after the boy began coughing up water and confirmed that if Westerhaus hadn't jumped in when he did, Xzavier probably wouldn't have survived. The father-daughter duo received Hometown Hero awards from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical for their quick thinking and lifesaving actions. The first responders said that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children and drowning doesn’t always look the way people think.

Thank goodness Maddox recognized something was wrong and alerted her father. Hopefully the pair went out for ice cream to celebrate their new hero status. Surely Xzavier’s mom is storing up on snuggles with her little guy and undoubtedly grateful for her neighbor’s quick acting.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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