WATCH: Surveillance video shows man pull lifeless toddler from Lawrence pool

13 News at Six
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 2:00 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - Officials in Lawrence hope dramatic video that shows the near drowning and rescue of a four-year-old boy will make people think twice about water safety as summer approaches.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and Lawrence Police held a joint media conference Thursday morning outside the Lawrence-Douglas Co. Fire Medical Administrative Offices.

“A lot of times we do not get to celebrate these kinds of incidents in the way they turned out,” said Battalion Chief Rob Fleeup.

During the conference, officials released surveillance video showing 4-year-old Xavier Rigney run towards and then jump into an empty swimming pool. Several children in the area gather around the pool’s fence as the child struggles in the water.

(GRAPHIC) Surveillance video from May 18, 2022 shows autistic child jumping into pool and rescue that followed.

The video shows Rigney’s body eventually go lifeless before flashing forward to the rescue.

Officials say 12-year-old Maddox Westerhaus saw the toddler floating in the pool and alerted his father Tom Westerhaus. “I just went like ‘oh no’ and ran,” said Maddox.

The video shows Tom hopping the fence and pulling Xavier’s lifeless body from the water. Westerhaus can be seen administering CPR, training he said he learned over 15 years ago.

“I just remembered the chest compressions and everything, so it just somehow came out of the back of my mind,” said Tom.

During Thursday’s media conference, Xavier’s mother Alexis Rigney got to meet Maddox and Tom Westerhaus for the first time since the May 18, 2022 incident.

She thought back to that day remembering how panicked she felt after realizing her son was not inside their apartment. “I have a four-month-old and she was crying, so I went to go grab her and then I noticed I didn’t see Xavier,” Alexis continued saying, “I went into his room and checked and he was not there, so I went out the door and I could hear sirens.”

Tom got Xavier breathing again as the paramedics arrived and Alexis followed them as they rushed toward the pool.

She said, “Xavier was being pulled out of the pool, but I did not see him moving, so I did not know that he was okay at the time.”

Xavier was also in attendance Thursday, un-phased from his brush with death. Officials say Xavier was under water for 3 minutes and 22 seconds.

He has now made a full recovery and Alexis says she is so grateful. “I do not know what I would have done if his son would not have been out there and seen him in the pool,” she added.

Maddox and Tom Westerhaus were both presented certificates recognizing their life saving actions.

Left to right, Maddox Westerhaus, Tom Westerhaus, Kevin Joles
Left to right, Maddox Westerhaus, Tom Westerhaus, Kevin Joles(WIBW)

Officials did not release the apartment complex where the incident occurred.

Xavier’s mother said the incident also taught her more about her son’s condition. “He is autistic and non-verbal, so a lot of autistic kids they love large bodies of water, pools, lakes, and the ocean and they are attracted to things like that and I did not know that.”

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