PLACENTIA : Boy Becomes 12th Drowning Victim

Doctors and safety officials say that so far this year the scene has been played out too many times in Orange County: A child plays inside his house, then--unnoticed by adults--wanders outside and is later discovered floating in the back-yard swimming pool.

Eighteen-month-old Thomas Mallace became the county’s 12th drowning victim this year when he was pulled out of the family’s swimming pool earlier this week by his father, Vincent.

Police Sgt. Russ Rice said Thomas was playing with his 3-year-old brother in a family room in the two-story home in the 400 block of Swanson Avenue around 11 a.m. Sunday.

Thomas’ mother, Diane, was also in the family room but went upstairs for a moment, relatives said.


Carroll Myers, Thomas’ grandfather, said Thomas apparently fell in the pool after the children opened a door to the patio.

Myers said Thomas’ father returned home from running an errand and discovered his son floating in the pool. The family called paramedics, who administered artificial respiration before rushing the child to Placentia-Linda Community Hospital.

Thomas was pronounced dead a little more than an hour later, Rice said.

“No one saw him go outside, so no one really knew how long he was in the water,” Rice said.

Meanwhile, the condition of 1-year-old Evan Vuong, who fell into his family’s swimming pool in Garden Grove last Saturday, was upgraded to fair on Thursday.

Vuong’s family was preparing to celebrate his first birthday when the baby wandered out of the house and fell into the pool at the family’s Jefferson Avenue home.

A hospital spokeswoman said Evan was no longer in danger but said she could not say whether he suffered any brain damage from the near-drowning.

The rash of drownings and near-drownings is being monitored by the Orange County Trauma Society, which plans to launch a new phase of its education program with public service announcements and a video promoting pool safety.


“We haven’t hit the peak part of the hot summer months yet, and we already have too many (drowning deaths),” said Ron Johnson, the society’s executive director. “The high use (of pools) from Memorial Day to Labor Day is yet to come, and we hope we can avert some of these tragedies.”

Orange County has one of the highest numbers of pools per capita in the nation, a statistic that is partly responsible for an average of 17 children under the age of 9 who have drowned every year since 1978.

The figures do not include near-drownings, which have left some victims severely incapacitated.

Carroll Myers said his family is devastated by the drowning. He said his grandson was “just 18 months old, full of life and just a real pleasure.”