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Colorado family mourns 4-year-old son, offers words of caution

July 29, 2018

As a Colorado family mourns their 4-year-old son who died after a drowning accident at Lake Minatare, they share words of caution for parents: take steps to keep your kids safe around water.

Messiah White died Tuesday, two days after he had been found unresponsive at Lake Minatare on Saturday, July 21.

Messiah’s mother Staci White, who grew up in Scottsbluff, said the family had been here to visit her father. The group went out to the lake during their visit.

Messiah was among the children eagerly playing in the water while White and others in the group prepared to go into town for a food run.

“We had pulled the kids out of the water until we got back,” she said. “Messiah was not supposed to be in the water, but he went back in by himself.”

White’s children, ages 1-15, were with her father and her two younger brothers. As she and others traveled to town, she said, they got a phone call from her dad, but thought it was a misdial. When they saw an ambulance, they called him back and she said, “He told us he was giving Messiah CPR.”

She said they rushed back, where she found Messiah had been pulled onto the beach and was receiving CPR.

“It was horrifying,” she said of the moment. “(It’s) the last thing you ever want to encounter as a parent. It’s an image that you can’t get out of your head.”

Messiah was transported to Regional West Medical Center, she said, and he was flown to a Colorado hospital. However, she said, his brain continued to swell and his organs shut down, one by one. On Tuesday, his heart stopped.

Of her seven children, Staci describes Messiah as her “little helper.”

“Since I have a 1-year-old and the older kids are in school, most days it was Messiah, the 1-year-old and me at home,” she said. “He was always with me, going with me to go grocery shopping, running to an appointment. He was my little right-hand man.”

Out of her family’s tragedy, White said she is hoping she can help others. She is sharing a message to parents to have their children wear their life jackets and flotation devices meant to keep children safe in water.

According to a recent Omaha World-Herald story, the most current statistics available show that Nebraska had 19 drowning deaths in 2016, 13 in 2015, 18 in 2014, eight in 2013 and 24 in 2012, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Messiah’s drowning happened quickly, White said. A boater told investigators he saw the boy playing in the water and about a minute later, White said, he heard people screaming after Messiah’s 13-year-old sibling found him in the water.

The family had life jackets and a flotation device that is belted onto the child, but she said she did not require Messiah to wear one. The boy didn’t want to wear one and “I didn’t want it to be such a big thing.” The family goes to the lake and other water venues at least a couple of times of year.

Staci said she would tell parents to make sure they are always using life jackets or safe flotation devices every time their children are around water.

“It doesn’t matter whether they (kids) think they are good for them or you think they are going to stay in the shallow part, make sure that it is on them. If it is your pool in your backyard, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, I have heard parents say, ‘He does it every day. He knows what he is doing.’ It just takes one time,” she said.

Funeral services for Messiah are currently being planned and will be held on Aug. 8. A viewing service will be held on Aug. 7. A GoFundMe for the family has been set up at www.gofundme.com/white-family-support.

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