A 2-year-old child is in a coma fighting for his life after he nearly drowned in a hot tub at a Kilgore hotel on Sunday.

The family of the child, Luke Wayne Killough, said he fell in the hot tub near the pool area around 1 p.m. Sunday while his father, Scott Killough, was getting a bottle and his infant son, Gabriel.

The mother, Dominique Killough, who was working at the time, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph her daughter, Tabitha Killough, 4, put on her goggles and went in the hot tub to try and save her brother, but he was too heavy to pull out of the water. She went and got her father who called 911.

“They had their floaties but they weren’t on. Scotty told them to wait by the pool gate while he went up and got the bottle for the baby,” Dominique Killough explained. “He had just propped the bottle and was bringing Gabriel to the pool when Tabitha told him what happened.”

Luke was floating head down when Scott Killough pulled him out, the mother said. He removed muffins from his mouth and began CPR until the ambulance arrived. However, Luke was unresponsive and not breathing, she said.

“He did not start breathing again until he was at (Christus Good Shepherd Emergency Center in Kilgore) and from there he was airlifted to the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas,” Dominique Killough said. “He started pulling at the breathing tubes so they had to sedate him for the flight, but he is in a coma now and it’s not medically induced.”

Chris Helms and his wife, Noel Howard, have had a big hand in raising Tabitha and Luke as the parents have been out-of-town working. The parents stay with them in Henderson and like to go to the beach or get a hotel room for the weekend so the kids can swim. That is what they did this past weekend at the Kilgore Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites.

“He wanted to take them to do something because I was out of town working. I was going to meet them that evening so we could swim,” Dominique Killough said. “Their friends from out of town came over and were swimming all day.”

Helms, in tears from the hospital in Dallas said, “He hasn’t woke up yet. We don’t know if he will. We know they are trying to let his body heal as much as it can ... He’s fighting for sure .. he’s amazing.”

Dominique said talking to her daughter about the incident has been difficult.

“She said she tried to pull him out of the water but he wasn’t waking up and she couldn’t get him out of the water,” Dominique Killough said. “They are very good about the water. They go to the lake every other day. We go to indoor swimming pools at hotels. I can understand (Scott Killough) thought they were going to stand to the side.

“He must have fell or slipped to go in because he does not go in the water without his floaties,” she added.

Helms shared videos of Luke Wayne where the boy would take photos of his sister when she was dressed up. He loves to take photos and he loves balloons. In other photos, Tabitha is hugging or leading Luke around by her hand.

“Balloons and food, he never stops eating,” Helms said, finally forcing a smile. “Luke Wayne is a fun kid. We were just playing with balloons the day before, he would pop them as fast as I could blow them up. I finally stopped and said, “Are you just going to keep popping these?’ He smiled and said, ‘Yea.’ I love this kid, so I just kept blowing up balloons to let him pop them!”

Helms is a District Manager of circulation for the Longview News-Journal, Tyler Morning Telegraph and Kilgore News Herald.

While the parents are staying in Dallas, Helms said he is driving to Henderson to check on the other two kids and to work in Longview, then he goes back to Dallas.

Dominique Killough said the support from family and friends has been a big help. Family is helping watch the kids and there have been up to six car loads of family waiting their turn to see Luke when they can.

She said Luke adores Helms and jokes he runs right past her to hug his uncle before her. He also screams when he has to leave.

Helms, fighting back tears again says, “That’s my baby boy.”


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John is a two-time national columnist of the year and AP award-winner in Texas and New York for breaking news, videos and sports. He earned the Thomas J. Bulson Investigative Journalism award and has appeared on CNBC's American Greed, FOX and CNN.