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Toddler found near death in neighbor's swimming pool

ST. PETERSBURG — Luke Leavengood is 20 months old, golden-haired and curious. He just learned how to open doors.

He and his twin sister, Vivian, were home, under the care of a nanny, when he opened his front door about 10:30 a.m. Thursday and wandered into his neighbor's back yard.

His nanny found him submerged in the neighbor's pool a few minutes later. He was rushed to All Children's Hospital, where he was in critical condition Thursday night.

"It's devastating," said his grandmother, Karen Henderson, whose son-in-law called to tell her Thursday morning.

"Those are the types of phone calls you don't want to get," said Henderson, who dropped to her knees to pray before getting in her car to drive from her Gainesville home to St. Petersburg.

The nanny, Rachel Parr, noticed Luke was gone from the house at 1953 Hawaii Ave. NE when she saw the front door ajar, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.

She ran out to find him and called his father.

While searching the back yard, she saw Luke floating in the neighbor's pool at 1961 Hawaii Ave. NE, Puetz said. Parr pulled Luke out, called 911 and started CPR.

The Leavengoods remained by their son's side Thursday.

"Thankfully, he's fairly stable," Henderson said by phone Thursday afternoon. "But he's unconscious."

A machine was helping him breathe, and doctors were watching for brain swelling, Henderson said.

Parr, 42, of St. Petersburg was interviewed by detectives, Puetz said, and won't face any charges.

"There's no evidence of any kind of wrongdoing on her part," he said. "It still appears to be accidental."

Florida law requires residential swimming pools built after 2002 to have one of four barriers: 4-foot-high fencing, a cover, a security system that goes off when the door leading to the swimming pool is opened, or a pool alarm.

The next-door neighbor's pool was not fenced, Puetz said. It was unclear Thursday whether it included any other barriers. Because the pool was built in 1985, property records show, it is exempt from the statute.

A man standing in the home's front yard declined to comment Thursday.

Jean Shoemaker, outreach coordinator for the Florida Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition, called the boy's near-drowning a "tragedy."

"We just want to keep those kids inside. That is what 2-year-olds are supposed to do. They're supposed to explore," Shoemaker said.

Henderson said the family is placing their faith in God.

"We're still asking Him to raise that little boy."

Times researchers Natalie Watson and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 893-8713 or lmorel@tampabay.com.

Toddler found near death in neighbor's swimming pool 11/08/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 9, 2012 8:22am]
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