QUEEN CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- With the weather heating up and more families hitting the pool, one family in Queen Creek is sharing the story of how their young son almost drowned.
"There is no bigger fear as a parent than losing a kid," said Steve Riggs. Both Steve and his wife Deserae are healthcare workers, and say they have always been careful when their kids are around the water. But on July 4th, 2016 Steve was at work and got a phone he says he'll never forget.
"I just screamed," Steve said. Steve's wife and kids were at a relative's house celebrating the 4th of July, and his 17-month-old son, Paxton, had been inside playing with the rest of the family. But the boy somehow slipped behind a couch pushed against a wall where a doggy door had been installed.
"And when my daughter had shut the pool fence it hadn't latched. So all you had to do was push the door open. And he had gone into the pool area and into the pool," Steve said. A frantic search followed, and they found the toddler under water.
"No breathing. He'd been under water for five minutes. Purple. You know, white, purple. He was, yeah, for all intents and purposes, dead." Family members immediately started CPR and first responders got there quickly, getting a pulse back as they arrived at the hospital.
"I drove so fast I actually beat the ambulance to the hospital," Steve said.
It wasn't clear if Paxton would live, or if he would suffer from severe brain damage the rest of his life. But against the odds, Paxton fought. He had to regain the ability to walk and he experienced seizures. But after hundreds of therapy sessions and nearly four years later, Paxton is doing things like karate and playing catch with his dad.
Now, this father has a message. "Always make sure that all accesses to the outdoors are closed and locked," Steve said. "Because it can happen so fast."
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children under the age of four. Arizona's Family has a special section designed to help families stay safe around water. Click here for more information.