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Boy Drowns After Gate Is Mistakenly Left Open

Tragedy: Son, 2, of sheriff's deputy dies after accident involving pool cleaner, authorities say. Elsewhere, a girl nearly drowns in fish pond.

July 24, 1996|THAO HUA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 2-year-old boy drowned Tuesday morning after a gate to his family's swimming pool accidentally was left open, and another toddler nearly drowned after falling into a backyard fish pond, authorities said.

About 10:15 a.m., paramedics called to the Westminster home of county Sheriff's Deputy Frank Becerra found his son unconscious, said Capt. Scott Brown, spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority. The boy had been found at the bottom of the pool by his mother.

"We have a report that a pool cleaner was there earlier," Brown said. "In the process of cleaning, he had opened the gate and the child got in. When he was done, he shut the gate and left the area, not realizing that the child was still inside."

The boy died at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center.

Becerra was on duty at the time, authorities said.

In an unrelated incident, a 17-month-old girl, Kellyn Ware, was found flailing under about 6 inches of water.

Her mother, Therese Ware, said she had left the toddler near the family's fish pond, which is surrounded by a 2-foot border. Within seconds, the child was in the pond, the mother said.

"I found her on her back reaching up as if she was trying to find something to grab onto to get herself out," said Ware, a registered nurse. "When I snatched her out, I think I startled her. . . . She began to spit out water."

Paramedics who arrived at the family's Abby Ranch home east of Lake Forest discovered that the child's lungs had been congested with water and took her to Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, where she is expected to survive, authorities said.

"I've definitely been given a second chance," Ware said.

Brown said the two incidents "show, again and again, that drownings can happen in a puddle of water, in a bathtub or a pool. It doesn't take much."

Since March, at least 30 drownings or near-drownings have occurred in about 18 cities and unincorporated areas served by the fire authority, Brown said.

"This is of epidemic proportion," Brown said. "It should be a wake-up call to the community. This has continued to be a significant issue that we all need to deal with."

Prompted by at least eight drownings of children so far this year, the fire authority and Children's Hospital of Orange County in Orange initiated a program called "Water Watcher." The program encourages people to designate an adult who knows cardiopulmonary resuscitation to watch over children in or near a pool.

Another aim of the program is to alert adults that danger doesn't always bring warnings of splashing or yelling. Drowning is sometimes a silent death that can occur in seconds, fire officials said.

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