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June 20, 1999

The 3-year-old grandson of a recently retired Phoenix fire captain died Saturday afternoon after falling into the family swimming pool the night before.

Thomas Lusson slipped into the pool Friday night during a family barbecue attended by 18 adults and about a dozen children in the 1200 block of East Gardenia Drive in Avondale.

His mother found him in the pool moments after he was missing, and an uncle, Dick Armendariz, a current Phoenix fire captain, performed CPR.

Lusson was rushed to Phoenix Children's Hospital, where he remained in critical condition until Saturday. He died after spending the night on life support.

Phoenix Fire Capt. Bob Kahn said the family is devastated and struggling through the tragedy.

"It could happen to anybody and can cross all lines," he said. "These people are the most responsible, good-hearted, all-American family you could find. It just rips your heart out all the more."

Even with a pool fence at the home and a family of drowning experts on hand, Kahn said that drownings don't discriminate.

"If you understand how a drowning happens, it is extremely subtle, and nobody notices a thing," he said.

And with distractions, such as a barbecue going on and other kids running around, "the more at risk you are," Kahn said.

He said that in June alone, the department already has been called to about eight water-related incidents. There have been 29 near drownings this year in Arizona, 23 of them involving children.

Two other children were sent to hospitals Saturday after falling into pools.

A 3-year-old Mesa girl slipped into the pool at an apartment complex in the 1300 block of West Emerald Avenue. Mesa firefighters were called to the scene and reported the child was alert and oriented. She was transported to Desert Samaritan for observation.

A 2-year-old Glendale boy was listed in fair condition at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix after falling into a pool. He was conscious and crying, fire and police dispatchers said.

Kahn said that with the increasing heat, the number of water-related incidents is expected to increase.

But, he said, it doesn't have to.

"We can't stop getting the word out because we know that if we stop, there are just going to be more of them," he said. "We're just trying to keep the number of deaths as low as we can."

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: By Janelle Cowgill
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic

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