WATCH: ‘Heroic’ Father-Son Duo Rescue 4-Year-Old Autistic Boy Drowning in Pool

A twelve-year-old Kansas boy and his father are being hailed as heroes for their remarkable caught-on-camera rescue of a drowning 4-year-old boy with nonverbal autism.

“They’re clearly responsible for saving the life of a four-year-old boy,” said Douglas County Fire and Medical Batallion Chief Rob Fleeup at a recent press conference shared on YouTube by the City of Lawrence.

The frightening incident unfolded when four-year-old Xavier Rigney wandered into a pool at an apartment complex in Lawrence on May 18, officials with Douglas County Fire and Medical said at the press conference. Xavier’s mother, Allison, noted that she was checking on her crying infant when she noticed Xavier was missing and subsequently found an open door.

Twelve-year-old Maddox Westerhaus was in the area with his friends when they alerted him to the drowning child.

“I just saw him because my friends were yelling at me to go get help, and I just went like ‘Oh no,’ and ran,” Maddox told reporters during the press conference. He notified his father, Tom Westerhaus, of the situation.

Tom rushed to the scene, hopped a six-foot fence to access the pool, and extracted Xavier from the water, according to Fleeup and surveillance video obtained by KSBC and shared on YoutTube by KAKE. Fleeup said the child had been in the water for three minutes and twenty-two seconds.

Westerhaus began administering CPR to Xavier, which lasted nearly three minutes, and he successfully cleared the water from Xavier’s system.

“I think definitely when he started coughing up water and everything, I knew that was a sign,” Tom told reporters.

Tom “learned CPR years ago” while working as a lifeguard, KMBC reported.

While he was rendering aid to Xavier, first responders with the Lawrence Police Department and Lawrence Fire and Medical were being dispatched to the scene. Once They arrived, Tom turned the conscious child over to Fleeup.

On May 26, the heroes were reunited with an active and energetic Xavier and grateful Allison for a recognition ceremony honoring the father-son duo.

“I was just so excited to meet them,” she told reporters, adding that “I don’t know what I would have done if his son wouldn’t have been out there and seen him in the pool.”

For their life-saving efforts, Tom and Maddox were given “Hometown Hero Awards” and challenge coins.

“I told Tom on that day that was one of the most heroic things that we have ever witnessed,” Fleeup said.

The National Autism Association states that “accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an” Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in “2009, 2010, and 2011.” The organization urges families with children who have ASD to sign them up for swimming lessons.


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