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7 Drowning calls in 48 hours Alarm Authorities

Weekend of emergencies leads to vigilance pleas.
May 19, 1997

The drowning in a canal Sunday of a west Phoenix toddler, along with another drowning, one close call and at least four other water emergencies Saturday, have Valley fire departments renewing pleas for parental vigilance.

Before dawn Sunday, near 75th Avenue and Van Buren Street, a toddler who had been put to bed about 10 p.m. and checked on later, wandered away from his home and drowned in an irrigation ditch.

Phoenix police Detective Mike McCullough said 18-month-old Ramiundo Perez was being watched by an uncle, who noted that the boy was sleeping at I am. When the toddler's mother came home about 2 a.m., however, the door to the boy's room was open and the child was missing.

He'd apparently wandered into the yard, through a broken wooden gate and into the ditch about 50 feet from his house, McCullough said.

An irrigation employee found the boy's body about three quarters of a mile down the canal, near Buckeye Road.

McCullough said the boy liked to play near the canal.

Ramiundo's death was the fifth drowning in Phoenix this year, said Battalion Chief Kevin Riley, and again illustrates the need for constant vigilance by adults in addition to strong mechanical measures, like gates with childproof locks.

"The common thread we see in these drownings (of children) is the lack of parental supervision, "Riley said.

Experience shows that adults who think they are being careful enough often are wrong, Riley said. And that adults who do not pay attention are asking for trouble.

Phoenix's fourth drowning of 1997 occurred the day before when 83-year old William Morrissey died in his backyard pool in the 2000 block of West Westcott Drive, north of Union Hills Drive.

Morrissey had told his wife he was going swimming, and she found him dead in the pool about 4:30 p.m. investigators said.

Valley-wide efforts to "waterproof" children began in the early 1990s after a particularly bad year in Phoenix in 1989-when a record 101 water incidents were logged and 26 people died.

The next year, the number was cut in half.

However, drownings and near drownings began to rise again in 1995, and in 1996 Phoenix had 84 water incidents, 63 of them involving children under 5. Ten of those children died.

Glendale got an early and shocking wake-up call this year when, on May 7, two curious toddlers scooped away gravel from below a pool fence near 83rd and Glendale avenues and managed to get inside and into the pool, authorities said.

The victims, 17-month-old Morgan Taylor Bartvold and 20-month-old Gary Leon Coit Jr., who were related were flown to separate hospitals, only to be pronounced dead.

On Friday night, near 43rd and Glendale avenues, a 2-year-old girl almost drowned in the pool of her apartment complex before two 8-year old girls saved her, Glendale police said. Investigators said the toddler's baby sitter seemed not to care when the 8-year-olds told her the child had sunk to the bottom in 5-foot-deep water.

But the girls dived in and brought her to the surface, began to revive her and got other adults to call 911, said Officer Matthew Brown of the Glendale Police Department.

The baby-sitter, Debra Ann Hudson 39, is "retarded" according to relatives, and Brown said Sunday that the toddler's mother may have been aware of this. If so, he added charges could be filed against the mother.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Written by: Richard Casey
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic

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