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April 25, 2001

Two 1-year-old Valley children tumbled headfirst into buckets Tuesday afternoon in separate near-drowning incidents less than 40 minutes apart. One child may not survive.

The incidents mark three times in less than a week that children have fallen into buckets of water. Though the incidents are relatively rare, firefighters see bucket drownings every year, mostly because toddlers are top-heavy and cannot easily right themselves when they fall over. "We need to remember that all bodies of water are hazardous to children," said Deputy Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan. "The younger they are, the more vulnerable they are to toilets, tubs and buckets.

"Typically, babies of that age don't have enough arm strength to get themselves out."

As temperatures start rising, children are drawn to water. That means not only swimming pools but also bathtubs, dog dishes, coolers with melted ice, buckets and toilets. Anything with more than 2 inches of water is a potential hazard, because "kids are explorers even at that age," Khan said.

On Saturday, 15-month-old Macy Kelly drowned in Mesa in a 2- to 3-gallon bucket that was about one-third full.

Last year, 28 children drowned in Maricopa County and 108 nearly drowned. So far this year, five children have drowned and 27 nearly drowned. Two of this year's fatalities and 20 of the near-drownings occurred in Phoenix, where last year child drowning deaths were the highest since 1991. Phoenix recorded one bucket incident last year; that child survived.

Victor Beltran, whose girlfriend's son was one of the toddlers who nearly drowned Tuesday, said it's simply impossible to predict when a child will be drawn to water.

"Little children don't stop to think. We have to do that for them all the time," Beltran said. "All it takes is a second out of sight, and something can happen. For this mother, this has been the most devastating second of her entire life."

The boy, Christian Alfredo Guzman, 13 months, was the second child to tumble into a bucket Tuesday afternoon. He is in critical condition on life support at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.

The first incident was reported just after 2:30 p.m. in Avondale. Division Chief Art Snapp, of the Avondale Fire Department, said Tonya Garcia fell headfirst into a 5-gallon bucket containing a solution of water and Pine Sol cleaner. Her mother performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before firefighters arrived, and the toddler was breathing when she arrived at St. Joseph's Hospital. She had been underwater no more than a minute or two, Snapp said.

Tonya was in fair condition Tuesday evening.

About 3:10 p.m., Christian became the second near-drowning of the day when he fell into a 5-gallon bucket with about 6 inches of water. The Phoenix boy had no pulse and was not breathing when firefighters arrived, Khan said.

Beltran said Christian's mother had used the bucket of water earlier to clean the floor. She left the bucket in the back yard with Christian and his twin brother, Carlos, while she went inside to bring out some food. Beltran estimated Christian was stuck in the bucket for about two minutes before he was pulled out. Khan said the toddler could have been under water as long as five minutes.

"I feel really horrible," Beltran said. "I had been telling her that we always have to be careful of this type of thing. " Color photos (2) by Russell Gates/The Arizona Republic Swings at the scene of a near-drowning are idle. Police Detective Steve Orona investigates the back yard where 13-month-old Christian Alfredo Guzman nearly drowned Tuesday afternoon on Phoenix's west side.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: Judi Villa, Brent Whiting and Hernan Rozemberg
©Copyright 2001 Arizona Republic

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