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2 Tots Drown in Glendale

Boy, girl squeezed under pool fencing in back yard.

Two curious toddlers wandered out of sight Wednesday to the family back yard, scooped away gravel to squeeze underneath a pool fence and fell together to a watery death, authorities said.

The victims, a 17-month-old girl and a 2-month-old boy who are relatives, were flown to separate Phoenix hospitals, where they were pronounced dead.

The children, identified as Morgan Taylor Bartvold and Gary Leon Coit Jr., didn't have a pulse when they were transported, said Sandra Raynor, a spokeswoman for the Glendale Fire Department.

It was the first double-drowning of children in the Valley since September 1990, when a pair of young brothers fell into the swimming pool of their new west Phoenix home.

Wednesday's drownings took place at a home in the 6600 block of North 84th Lane in Glendale after the toddlers had been placed in the care of a 17-year-old boy who is the brother of one of them and the uncle of the other, Raynor said.

They had been left unattened for about 30 minutes when the teenager went looking for them at about noon and spotted them in the pool, she said.

The boy awoke his mother, a nurse who works nights, who scaled the fence and pulled the kids from the pool., Raynor told reporters.

The toddlers, a child and grandchild of the nurse, apparently pushed aside some gravel and crawled under the swimming pool fence, Raynor said.

The deaths occured just weeks after the neighboring Phoenix Fire Department conducted its annual drowning-prevention campaign, known as April Pools Day.

The public-awareness campaign began in 1989, then known as Just a Few Seconds, a year in which 26 people died in water accidents and a record 101 water incidents were logged in Phoenix.

The next year, the number was cut in half.

However, drownings and near drownings began to rise again in 1995. Last year, Phoenix recorded 84 water incidents, 63 of them involving children under age 5. Ten children died.

In Glendale, fire authorities recorded six water incidents in 1996, three of them fatalities. One of the deaths involved a 5-year-old girl; the others were adult suicides. The other three incidents involved children ages 9 and under.

The deaths of Morgan and Gary on Wednesday pushed this year's drowning fatalities to three.

The drownings evoked a Sept. 4, 1990, incident in west Phoenix, in which Sean Lipford 4, and his 2-year-old brother, Justin, fell into the back yard pool of a home that the family had just moved into that Labor Day weekend.

Unlike the incident Wednesday, the double-drowning seven years ago happened at a house that had no fence around the swimming pool.

Many Valley cities have passed laws requiring a pool fence at newly constructed homes.

"(Still), There is no security like adult supervision," Raynor said.

"We don't know which one got into the pool first and exactly how long they were in there."

A neighbor, Casey Hagon, said he saw one of the children being taken away.

"The child was blue," he said.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Written by: Brent Whiting
Photo by: Nancy Engebretson
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic

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