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VALLEY POOLS CLAIM TOT,
BOY ON SAME DAY
1 IN N. PHOENIX, 1 IN TEMPE

April 15, 2000

Two Valley children drowned Friday in backyard pools, one a 14-month-old girl being cared for by a baby-sitter and the other a 9-year-old boy who was swimming with his sister.

Authorities on Saturday identified the two Valley children who drowned Friday in north Phoenix and Tempe as Gwen Mitchell, 14 months, and Phillip Howard, 9.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Terry Shields said Gwen crawled past a patio door and fell into the unfenced pool. She was one of as many as 11 children being cared for in a home in the 4100 block of West Townley Avenue. An adult tried unsuccessfully to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The tot had been under water about five minutes, he said.

Paramedics took her to John C. Lincoln Hospital-North Mountain, where she was pronounced dead.

No one answered the door at the home on West Townley.

But it is unlikely that the home's owner was licensed to care for so many children. Anyone watching more than four children must be certified by the state Department of Health Services and be subjected to its regulations, including inspections and health standards, such as fencing of any pools.

The girl's death was the sixth by drowning in Phoenix this year and the 15th drowning call, Deputy Fire Chief Bob Khan said.

''Today, we've already surpassed last year's total of drowning fatalities of five,'' Khan said.

If CPR can be started while paramedics are on the way, he said, children often can survive.

''We've already had two cases this year where CPR saved the lives of the children,'' he said.

In the Tempe drowning, however, relatives performed CPR but could not save Phillip.

Fire Department investigator Fred Guelich said the boy's 10-year-old sister pulled him from the water after she noticed him floating.

The children were visiting their grandfather's home in the 5600 block of Roberts Road, near Priest Drive and Baseline Road.

Guelich said the children's grandfather and uncle performed CPR until paramedics arrived and took the boy to Desert Samaritan Hospital in Mesa, where he was pronounced dead.

Fire crews did not know the child's swimming ability, and they couldn't say whether he suffered a medical problem.

Khan warned parents that their 2-year-olds can reach door nobs and open doors that they couldn't open just a few months before.

''So, it falls back to being vigilant and watching those kids,'' he said.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: By Yoji Cole and Monica Davis
©Copyright 2000 Arizona Republic

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