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Tampa toddler who nearly drowned got to pool through unlocked door

TAMPA — Oliver White wanted to spend every moment of his parent's vacation in his babysitters' pool, family friends said Saturday.

"That was his whole purpose for life since he got here," said Harold Scott, father of babysitter Melissa Scott.

Scott said a series of events led to the 17-month-old's near drowning Tuesday night.

Oliver was staying at 705 W 116th Ave., in the care of Melissa Scott and her boyfriend, Russell Henry, when he wandered from his high chair to the backyard pool, according to Tampa police.

Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the boy remained in critical condition Friday.

Henry said he and Scott have been to the hospital to visit Oliver every day since Tuesday.

"He's breathing on his own now," he said.

Davis said investigators have notified the Florida Department of Children and Families about the incident, a routine procedure in cases that involve the care of children.

But, Davis said, the near drowning appears to be accidental.

Parents Charmane and Kevin White, both 22, were in Montana at the time, taking their first vacation since Oliver's 4-year-old brother was born, Tampa police said.

Scott, 33, and Henry, 49, had stepped into a bedroom to talk when Oliver got out of his high chair and wandered out the unlocked front door and toward the backyard pool, police say.

Harold Scott said the door was usually held closed by a child safety stick, but it had been removed during a late-night trip to the laundry room and never replaced. "It's sad," he said. "You try to help people out but it goes bad like this."

Scott and Henry both have criminal histories, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Scott was arrested in 2005 on a charge of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. According to state records, she pleaded no contest and adjudication was withheld. Henry has been arrested 21 times, including a 1990 charge of grand theft motor vehicle that resulted in a year-and-a-half prison sentence.

Henry declined to talk about his past. He said that he grew up with the Whites and this was not the first stay at his home for Oliver and his 4-year-old brother.

There were two other adults and three juveniles in addition to the 4-year-old who were at home at the time of the near drowning, but police said they were all sleeping.

A spokeswoman at University Community Hospital said Oliver's parents have not given permission for information about their son's medical condition to be released.

Neither of the parents has any history of prior arrests, according to public records.

Harold Scott said when they discovered the baby in the pool, he ran to paramedic Josh Schwade's house across the street for help. Schwade performed CPR on the child until emergency crews arrived.

"Thank God, he was there," Scott said.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Tampa toddler who nearly drowned got to pool through unlocked door 08/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 8, 2009 8:35pm]
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