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June 23, 1999

Samantha Conway gobbled Skittles and Life Savers before her lunch, got to suck on her pacifier during the day and won't have to worry about potty training for a while.

The 2-year-old is receiving plenty of liberties these days from her doting parents.

Last Wednesday, Samantha nearly lost her life after she slipped under the water in the family's swimming pool.

Her mother, Molly, who was in the pool, rescued and revived the toddler. After a short stay at Phoenix Children's Hospital, Samantha, who turns 3 in August, was sent home.

It was a day the youngster's parents, Molly and Scott Conway, won't soon forget.

"She had angels looking over her," Molly Conway said Friday, laughing as Samantha and big brother Grant, 5, feuded over a pack of Skittles, part of a gift bag from a neighbor.

Last Wednesday after swimming lessons, Molly Conway and the kids returned to their East Poinsettia Drive home in north Scottsdale. Later that day, Conway decided to swim with the children and go over what they had learned in class.

Conway felt that swimming lessons were crucial if her children were going to grow up with a pool in the back yard. She and her husband also installed a fence around the pool the same day they moved in six months ago, solely because of the kids.

Grant crouched into a sitting position and dived into the pool toward his mother, then swam back to the edge. Samantha, with inflatable "floaties" on her arms, sat in the water on the step and watched.

Conway thought she had her eyes on both kids, but when she turned at one point to look for Samantha, she didn't see her on the step. All she spotted was Samantha's floaties.

Conway panicked, scanning the pool for her daughter. She found Samantha a few feet away in the pool, floating 2 inches under the water. As she snatched Samantha and climbed out of the pool, she ordered Grant out of the water and told him to grab the phone.

"She's limp. There's nobody there. There's no movement," Conway said. "I was screaming. I was like, 'Who's going to hear me in this neighborhood?' "

Realizing she had to save Samantha, Conway put her fear, guilt and anger aside and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, something she learned six years ago. She tilted her child's head back, pressed her chest and blew air into her lungs.

In the meantime, Grant rushed back to the pool with the phone, and Conway dialed 911.

Samantha came back to life.

"When she spit out that water, I just thanked God," Conway said.

In seconds, Samantha started crying. Rural/Metro firefighters rushed into the yard to check on the child, and then a helicopter landed in the middle of the street to fly Samantha to the hospital.

Then Conway, who had been calm and in charge all the time, burst into tears.

The ordeal is over, but Conway occasionally relives the near drowning. She hopes the nightmares go away.

The family hasn't used the pool since the accident but will swim again in time.

And when they do, all eyes will be on the kids. Conway said she learned that lesson.

"Don't take your eyes off of them," she said.

Rural/Metro spokeswoman Ruthanne Gilbert said floaties help youngsters stay afloat in water but emphasized that they are no substitute for parents. In Samantha's case, the youngster slipped off her floaties. Gilbert said children can easily escape them.

"They (floaties) should never take the place of parental supervision," she said. "It gives them (parents) a false sense of security. Don't think, 'I can go in and answer the phone.' You can't."

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: By Monica Davis
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic

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