PORT RICHEY — Denise Minicozzi rested her head on her arms Monday afternoon while relaxing in the pool with her 14-year-old son, Jimmy Walker. They were enjoying the summer sun, and Minicozzi was listening to Jimmy, who is autistic, play with the water.
"Jump! Jump!" he exclaimed happily, splashing his arms up and down.
"Yes, Jimmy. Jump," Minicozzi recalled responding. She closed her eyes, resting on the pool float.
Then things got quiet. That wasn't normal. She didn't see him when she opened her eyes.
Thinking Jimmy must have slipped out to hide, Minicozzi quickly climbed the ladder of the above-ground pool and called for him.
Then she turned and saw Jimmy lying facedown at the bottom of the pool.
"I didn't think in a million years he'd be at the bottom of the pool," she said Tuesday.
She screamed for her mother, who was inside the home on Stone Road in Embassy Hills. She screamed for someone to call 911. She screamed for help.
With adrenaline and fear running through her body, Minicozzi said, she hoisted up Jimmy but couldn't lift him out of the pool. Neighbors ran over, and two other adults helped get him out. He was unconscious but breathing.
A helicopter rushed Jimmy to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. On Tuesday, he remained in the intensive care unit, awaiting more tests but recovering from the ordeal. Minicozzi said he will stay in the hospital for a few days as a precaution.
Jimmy was the lucky one. Later Monday evening, a toddler was found unconscious in a New Port Richey swimming pool and died. Authorities say 2-year-old Juan Bermudez apparently got into his family's backyard pool through a sliding glass door while his mother slept at their home at 3606 Heron Island Drive. The pool did not have a fence or screen around it, and deputies believe the incident was an accident. His family could not be reached for this story.
In the wake of both incidents, Minicozzi wants other parents to know how easy it is for a child to get into trouble in the water.
"You're with your child, and you still don't know what could happen," she said.
Minicozzi thinks Jimmy had a seizure. He's had two in the past, she said.
Jimmy is an eighth-grader at Crews Lake Middle School in Shady Hills. Minicozzi said he's an honor student who also has a gift for music.
"Jimmy is a loving kid, and he loves the water," Minicozzi said. "I'm just thankful for my neighbor and best friend and everyone who was there to help me yesterday. I appreciate everyone's help."