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Kansas father, son recognized after saving toddler from drowning

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Posted at 12:31 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 17:48:13-04

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSHB/LEX 18) — A 4-year-old boy and his mother in Lawrence, Kansas, were reunited with his rescuers Thursday morning at a press conference held by the Lawrence Police Department and the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

Four-year-old Xzavier Rigney fell into a community pool at an apartment complex on May 18. He opened the door and left the house without his mother’s knowledge.

Officials say he was underwater for nearly three and a half minutes.

“We feel confident we would not be standing here today if it were not for the actions of Mr. Tom Westerhaus and his son Maddox,”

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Battalion Chief Rob Fleeup said.

Maddox Westerhaus, 12, was playing outside with his friends when he saw Xzavier’s head floating in the water. He quickly ran to get his dad, who was able to jump a six-foot fence to Xzavier’s rescue.

“I just feel good feelings when I think about how I helped,” Maddox said.

His dad, Tom Westerhaus, used hands-only CPR he learned over 15 years ago to resuscitate Xzavier.

“Honestly, everything was just kind of a blur jumping over the fence and everything,” Westerhaus said. “Definitely hits home a lot harder having a son myself and everything.”

Unfortunately..not all stories like this have a happy ending.

According to the CDC, drowning is a leading cause of death in children.

At local Lexington swim schools like Aqua-Tots, it's their mission to teach water safety.

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General manager Hannah Griffith says kids can drown in bodies of water as big as a pool and the ocean or as small as a toilet or bathtub.

"In any of those scenarios they can drown within 20 seconds," Griffith said.

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To stop this from happening they preach the ABCs, which are their top tips for preventing drowning.

A: Adult supervision at all times

B: Boundaries around bodies of water like a fence, gate, etc.

C: Classes to teach kids water safety

"It's so fun to see them progress and especially because it does make me less nervous when we go to a public pool where there's a lot going on, a lot of kids, a lot of distractions," Brittany Goens, who has a 3-year-old son enrolled in an Aqua-Tots class, said. "You take your eyes off them for a second and something scary can happen but with him, I'm a lot more comfortable because of this training.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children over the age of one should learn to swim, adding an extra layer of protection to prevent tragedy.