PARENTS

Dad Warns Parents Of Distraction Danger After Finding Daughter Face Down In Swimming Pool

12/11/2015 11:36 GMT | Updated 12/11/2015 16:59 GMT

A dad has spoken out about the terrifying time he "turned his back for five minutes" and found his four-year-old daughter lying face down at the bottom of the family swimming pool.

Ian Thomas, 39, from Kent, pulled his daughter Jacinta out just in time to save her life. He has shared his story to warn other parents of the dangers of distraction.

"I know what would have happened if I had been on the phone any longer," said Thomas.

"We could have lost my beautiful little girl. But we didn't – and I will never been more thankful for anything in my life."

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Jacinta Thomas in the family's swimming pool

On 4 September, Thomas had just had a swim in the pool at the end of the family's garden with his daughter Jacinta, who was wearing a buoyancy vest as she was unable to swim unaided.

The pair were walking the 10 metres back to the house together when Thomas got a call on his mobile.

Distracted for a moment, the IT company director walked on and answered the call, assuming Jacinta had followed.

The rest of the family – his partner, stay-at-home mother Angela Thomas, 40, and four other children Lochlan, 16, Candice, 14, Malachi, 12, and Lakinzi, seven months - were already inside.

Thomas said, "Jacinta was just doing her thing, then she got out of the pool, dried off and we were going indoors together when I got the call.

"That's where the confusion started. I just thought she'd gone on in but soon realised she was nowhere to be seen and rushed outside.

"I couldn't see her so I rushed into the outhouse, over to the pool, looked into the window and still couldn't see her.

"I ran inside, looked into the pool and then I saw her.

"She was face down at the bottom of the pool. I dropped everything, dived in and dragged her out. But I knew it wasn't good, she was unconscious, and her lips were turning blue.

"She wasn't wearing her life jacket, and had obviously got into trouble and been unable to get out by herself."

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Screaming as he ran towards the house, Thomas carried his limp daughter across the garden and banged on the windows before laying her out on the ground.

"Angela came out, saw Jacinta and started screaming," he said. "She was in quite a state.

"We called the ambulance but I knew I had to resuscitate her. You could tell looking at her she was on death's door.

"Maybe it's all the hospital dramas on TV, but I just knew what to do. You pull it out of the bag, you find an inner strength.

"She didn't gasp and spring back to life with a smile like they do in films, but she did start to come round, and giving her the kiss of life gave us another five minutes' grace before the ambulance arrived."

The ambulance arrived at the family home within five minutes, followed by further ambulance crews and police cars.

Officers sealed off the scene of the incident in case it became a crime scene.

"The emergency services were just incredible", said Thomas.

"An air ambulance arrived but Jacinta was still extremely ill and they couldn't put canulas in her arms, which are needed to be able to travel by air, so she was taken to the local William Harvey Hospital in Ashford by land ambulance."

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Jacinta Thomas spent a week in hospital in the high dependency ward

Her guilt-ridden father said he felt responsible for the accident – even though he was the one who saved her life.

"Doctors told us there was a window of 10 minutes for a child such as Jacinta to survive underwater. There are a maximum of five minutes unaccounted for when she might have been underwater – so we were very close to losing her.

"I blame myself and feel so guilty."

Looking back, the father-of-five admitted it was the all-too-familiar "turn your back for five minutes" scenario every parent has had.

"We knew having a pool we had to be so vigilant with the kids, but this still happened," he said. "We keep an even closer eye on the kids now than before the accident.

"But accidents do happen – you have to know how to act if something bad does happen.

"Watching a ten-minute YouTube video by St John's Ambulance could end up saving your kid's life."

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Ian Thomas is now supporting Kent and Sussex Air Ambulance after they helped save his daughter's life

Thomas said Jacinta is back to her bubbly, Peppa Pig-loving self and, despite missing the first week of primary school because she was in hospital, is loving school - but, as for the pool, the family now have it under lock and key.

Thomas is supporting Kent and Sussex Air Ambulance, a charity which relies solely on donations to run.

"The work the emergency services did that day I will never forget," he said.

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