Valley father continues mission to end child-drowning tragedies in Arizona

Child drownings is tragic silent killer that can happen to anyone.

PHOENIX - Child drownings are a tragic and silent killer that can happen to anyone at any time.

Valley father, John Harrington, lost his son to a drowning in the late '80s and hasn't stopped fighting since that horrible day to save other children from the same tragedy.

It can happen very fast, and you likely won't even know until it's too late.

"They can get through anything," Harrington said. "They can sneak away in a heartbeat. It can happen to anybody."

1986 was the year it happened to John Harrington.

"There was something that caught his attention in the pool that day and he slipped and went in," Harrington said.

Harrington's 18-month-old son Rex was home with a babysitter when he drowned in the backyard pool.

"You try not to blame and you try not to point fingers," he said. "We did that, my wife and I, but you still have that eternal guilt."

After years of grieving, Harrington began telling his son's story and helped launch the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona.

"We keep the issue in front of people," he said.

Formed over 25 years ago, the advocacy group was the first in the Valley to start warning families of drowning dangers. It was a time when Harrington says nearly 30 children drowned in just one summer.

"It was referred to as a full kindergarten class had drowned that summer and people were concerned," he said.

So, the coalition went on to fight for Valley cities to mandate barriers or fences around backyard pools.

"Today it has expanded so it's just about any body of water," he said. "We don't want anybody drowning anywhere, and it's all ages."

It's a cause Harrington will never stop fighting for after that fateful day he lost his blonde haired, bright-eyed baby boy.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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