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2 Valley Tots Drown


A Tempe Fire Department team carries Kaitlyn Kleler, 3, from her
home to be taken to a hospital after she was found in the pool.

Despite cooler weather, parents warned to stay alert.

Two toddlers have become the Valley's latest drowning victims. And fire officials say water safety is still a priority, despite the misconception that since the weather is cooling, pool owners are in the clear.

"They (drownings) don't go away," Phoenix Fire Captain Bob Khan said. "We see a reduction, and I'm thankful for that. They seem to trickle in less frequently. But they're not gone. They will continue to happen as long as people don't constantly keep their eyes on their kids."

A 3-year-old Tempe girl drowned Monday morning after she apparently fell into a family pool in the 6700 block of South Stanley Place.

Kaitlyn Kleker was pronounced dead at Phoenix Children's Hospital about 9 a.m., said Russ Wollam, spokesman for the Tempe Fire Department.

Kaitlyn's father, Ken, said his daughter was determined to go swimming. She dragged a bar stool to the patio door and unlocked it.

"We thought she knew she didn't go in the pool without mommy or daddy. And you don't go in the pool without your floaties," he said.

The child had been asleep with her mother early Monday when Kaitlyn's father left for work about 7:30 a.m. He came back home about an hour later and couldn't locate the child, Wollam said.

She was in the pool. Her father was performing CPR when firefighters arrived. Attempts to resuscitate the child failed.

Kaitlyn could have been in the water from five minutes to an hour, Wollam, said. A barrier fence surrounds the pool, but a gate may have been left open.

Kaitlyn, an only child, loved to swim.

"She brought joy to the lives of everyone she met," her father said.

In another drowning, a 22-month old Glendale girl died Sunday, a day after she was found floating in a swimming pool in Glendale.

Bailee Autumn Lawhorn was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center after she was discovered about 6:45 p.m. Saturday in her grandparents' pool in the 7800 block of West Bluefield Avenue.

A grandmother, as well as Glendale police, administered CPR in an at tempt to save the girl's life, said Officer Matthew Brown, spokesman for the Glendale Police Department.

Brown said Monday that details are sketchy, but Bailee apparently was out of her grandparents' sight during a 30-minute period, in which she some how got in the pool.

The backyard pool did not have its own fence, said Carl Austerman, a battalion chief for the Glendale Fire Department.

The tragedy occurred less than two months after Glendale officials, hoping to stop a spate of drownings that already had claimed five lives this year, launched a citywide safety blitz on Aug. 13.

Police and firefighters scoured the city, ringing doorbells and leaving fliers at an estimated 62,000 households, warning parents about the dangers of leaving children unattended near water.

Khan said the five near-drownings on Aug. 6 got the word out, causing the overall number of drownings to drop.

So far this year, there have been 65 water-related incidents in Phoenix alone; about 61 percent have involved children under age 5. In all, 16 people have died.

The number of drowning incidents drop down from eight to 10 a month to half that during the fall months, but parents should still beware, Khan said.

"People think as soon as mid September hits, they don't have to worry about it anymore," he said. "As a community, we think summer is over, and the problem is gone."

And he said the only real solution is constant supervision. "It's easy to say and hard to do."

Khan also said parents must make pools inaccessible to children.

Ken Kleker agreed. "Go the extra mile. Do whatever precautions it takes to keep your child out of the pool, Whatever the upgrade, costs are probably going to be less than the funeral."

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Written by: Christina Leonard
& Brent Whiting

Photo by: Mark Henle
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic

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