See a stranger jump in and save a 4-year-old boy from drowning in a pool

A mom in Lawrence, Kansas, hails her neighbor as an angel after he saved her 4-year-old son, Xzavier, from drowning last year.

Alexis Rigney, 22, was comforting her infant daughter on May 18, 2022 when Xzavier, who has autism and is nonverbal, wandered outside to their apartment complex pool.

“Somehow he got past the locked gates,” Rigney tells TODAY.com, noting that Xzavier has “always been attracted to water,” but isn't a strong swimmer.

In a chilling surveillance video, a diaper-clad Xzavier is seen taking one step into the pool before he’s completely submerged. He tries to pull himself up, but it's no use. Minutes later, neighbor Tom Westerhaus appears in the frame and is shown giving CPR to the little boy, who officials say had been underwater for three minutes and 22 seconds.

"I think it’s important to note that we edited the video because it’s very disturbing to watch, but it’s also important to note that Mr. Westerhaus continued compressions for a little more than two and a half minutes," Laura McCabe, a spokesperson for City of Lawrence Police, tells TODAY.com. "Xzavier was showing no signs of life, was literally blue in color from the lack of oxygen, and Mr. Westerhaus did not give up. I hope people realize how long that is to work on a child with very few signs of it making a difference."

"As you can see in the video, the little boy eventually started coughing and breathing," McCabe adds.

(TODAY.com also edited the video.)

Xzavier Rigney, who is 4 and has autism, fell into an apartment complex pool and was submerged for more than three minutes. (Lawrence PD)
Xzavier Rigney, who is 4 and has autism, fell into an apartment complex pool and was submerged for more than three minutes. (Lawrence PD)

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Westerhaus’s 12-year-old son, Maddox, noticed Xzavier was in trouble and alerted his dad. Westerhaus, a former lifeguard, then jumped the fence, pulled Xzavier out of the pool and began performing life-saving chest compressions.

Just moments after Rigney noticed that Xzavier was gone, she heard sirens and looked outside.

“I started crying and screaming hysterically,” she says. “I couldn’t hear him crying over all the noise. He wasn’t moving."

Had it not been for Westerhaus, Rigney says she is certain Xzavier would have died.

“I don’t know what I would do without him,” she shares through tears.

In the weeks following the terrifying incident, Rigney installed alarms on the doors in her apartment. She says Xzavier is "doing great" and made a full recovery.

"We’re very proud of Maddox and Tom and their heroic efforts with an extraordinary outcome, and thrilled that telling this story will help raise awareness about the importance of water safety," McCabe says.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThe Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there are about 300 drowning deaths of children younger than 5 each year in pools.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com