COLLEGE STATION, Texas — On July 9, 5-year-old Xavier Clifton almost lost his life to drowning at College Station's Adamson Lagoon public pool. Thanks to the fast action of lifeguards and other first responders, the boy is alive, thriving, and hitting the water again in swimming lessons.
“I don’t think he remembers anything," said Kisha Clifton, Xavier's mom. "So, I mean, he’s doing really good. He’s not afraid to get in the water anymore.”
Kisha's world stopped the moment she realized Xavier was motionless at the bottom of Adamson Lagoon’s larger and deeper pool. Lifeguards swooped in to save the boy. Kisha’s sister called 9-1-1 as Kisha broke down in inconsolable panic.
“I kept pacing backwards and forwards," Kisha said. "I was helpless to him. And that’s why sometimes I do blame myself because I should have been there holding his hand."
Xavier had several adults watching him, including his mom and aunt. Kisha said he typically wears a life jacket when in the big pool. But, having just come from the baby pool where life jackets are not required, Xavier had slipped out of sight for just a brief moment, entering the deeper water without the flotation device, Kisha said.
“I saw him at the bottom of the water, but a lot of kids do that, where they [intentionally] hold their breath – it's very, very common," said Nicolas ‘Nico’ Duenas, a lifeguard stationed at Adamson Lagoon. "But I still ran over just in case, just to be safe, and I quickly realized - he is not holding his breath. He is drowning.”
Duenas said he jumped in and pulled the child from the water. He and his coworker laid Xavier on the ground.
“I tilted his head back and checked for his pulse and breathing," Duenas said. I realized he had a pulse, so I told [my colleague] not to do CPR. I began doing rescue breaths and later he began regurgitating water and food from his stomach. We placed him in the recovery position and shortly after that, EMS arrived.”
College Station Fire Department medics arrived within three minutes of the initial 9-1-1 call, according to the CSFD. Xavier was transported to a local hospital, and following several days of hospitalization, he had recovered enough to return home.
The Clifton family said they are grateful for the fast actions of city staff and hope no one else has to experience the scare they did. Xavier is now enrolled in swimming lessons, and Kisha hopes all families will make sure their children receive swimming instruction.
“I’m just more cautious," she said. "I'm very cautious with him and with all my kids, because it’s just – things happen. You can’t predict what will happen, but you can prevent it.”