Montgomery County

Mother Reflects on Son's Drowning One Year Later

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The mother of Fitz Thomas, a 16-year-old student athlete who drowned in Loudoun County, is calling for further transparency and reforms to the 911 operating system one year after her son's death.

Fitz drowned while swimming across Goose Creek on June 4, 2020. He would have graduated Riverside High School this year.

"We’re a family of faith and hope, and so, I woke up this morning full of faith, full of hope, knowing that I will see Fitz again," Pastor Michelle Thomas said.

Thomas said she believes Fitz would have lived if not for a 911 mix-up that caused a half-hour delay in medics getting to the creek.

Loudoun County 911 operators repeatedly sent calls to Montgomery County, which has jurisdiction over the Potomac River, even though Fitz was on the Loudoun County side.

"I don’t think it’s something you can ever come to grips with or ever get over," Thomas said.

Montgomery and Loudoun counties have since implemented changes since the teen's death, and both jurisdictions now respond to calls on and near the Potomac.

The Loudoun County Fire Department says it has also upgraded its 911 system, placed better signage along waterways, and dispatchers toured waterways to become more familiar those areas.

But Thomas says the county has not been transparent about what recommendations have been put in place and she said she feels she’s been shut out.

"We don’t know, really, what they’ve implemented, when they've implemented and is there something to be implemented in the future," she said.

She's pushing for the county to also form a 911 reform commission.

Thomas is planning three days of events to mark her son's death, including a block party Friday evening, a memorial walk and dedication on Saturday, and a worship service for the class of 2021 on Sunday.

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