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2 Girls Nearly Drown in Pool

Tots may have gotten past open back door

March 10, 2005

Grace and Jewell Dano lay dripping and limp in their parents' arms as they were rushed to the next-door neighbor's.

The young couple screamed and pounded on the door.

Steven Lopez knew first aid. He laid the toddlers in his driveway and started working on them, going back and forth between the girls, giving instructions on compression and breathing to their parents.

"If those little girls have a chance, it's because he gave it to them," said Phoenix Fire Capt. Frank Salomon.

Grace, 2, and Jewell, 15 months, were in critical condition and on life support Wednesday at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.

The Valley's typical drowning season is broadly defined from April to October, but generally begins when temperatures climb into the 80s, as they're doing this week. So far this year, one child drowning has occurred, in Mesa.

Last year, 19 children drowned in Maricopa County.

Even if children don't drown, risks are great. Bacteria in dirty pools can lead to infections, including pneumonia. Brain damage is also a possibility.

On Wednesday, the Dano girls weren't breathing when they were pulled from the backyard pool at a home in the 3400 block of North 84th Lane.

Phoenix police detectives were investigating how they reached the water.

Their parents, 22-year-old James and 19-year-old Lynette Dano, had been staying about a week with a relative who owned the house.

The couple were asleep when the girls slipped out, said Sgt. Randy Force, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department.

More than 10 minutes passed before the couple found the girls in the unfenced pool shortly after 9 a.m., Phoenix Assistant Fire Chief Bob Khan said.

Authorities suspect a sliding door leading to the back yard may have been left open. The murky pool was 8 feet away from the door.

Paramedics arrived two minutes after a neighbor called 911.

They took over rescue efforts from Lopez, who wasn't available for comment.

As with all child drownings, Wednesday's tragedy deeply troubled firefighters.

Many canvassed the family's west Phoenix neighborhood two years ago, educating parents about how best to keep their children safe.

Salomon was part of that effort.

"I'm choking back tears right now, to be honest with you," Salomon said. "We're parents and we're human and seeing this kind of stuff really hurts. We see the faces of our little kids."

At the Danos' neighborhood Wednesday morning, residents stood outside the home, stunned.

"I just wish I'd done something, that's all," said Lynda Stetson, who lives behind the house and often sees children playing there.
Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Emily Bittner
Copyright 2005 Arizona Republic

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