Newport grandfather charged with child cruelty; 3-year-old recovering from near drowning

Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 2:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Newport man is facing child cruelty charges after police say he fell asleep while his grandson nearly drowned in a swimming pool.

It happened July 5 at a home on Sias Avenue in Newport. Newport Police say they received a report of a near-drowning that took place earlier in the day after a three-year-old boy had been found unresponsive in the water and was taken to the hospital by a family member.

Police on Friday announced that Kevin West, 46, will face child cruelty charges. They say West was supposed to be supervising Aweyn West, but allegedly fell asleep sitting near the pool.

Aweyn’s parents, Nakira West and Zachary Provost, tell Channel 3 News, he is lucky to be alive, but life will be very different. As a result of the near-drowning, he’s been having a difficult time doing things such as talking and walking.

While his family are not the ones filing charges against Kevin West, they also say they aren’t surprised.

It only takes a moment for an unsupervised child to find themselves in deep water. Unfortunately Nakira and Zachary know that all too well.

“They had my son Aweyn in the emergency room, and they were working on resuscitating him,” Nakira West, Aweyn’s mom described to Channel 3.

They say the child was playing, then fell in. The family says after several minutes submerged, a 16-year-old pulled him from the water and he was rushed to North Country Hospital.

“We were shocked, scared, devastated,” Zachary Provost, Aweyn’s father explained. “We couldn’t really believe what happened.”

After 20 minutes of CPR, he was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where he began the fight for his life 10 days ago. While doctors say he will likely suffer from some permanent brain damage, he is currently alert and responsive.

“He was looking pretty lifeless. He had a breathing tube in him. He had a bunch of wires,” Zachary continued. “We didn’t think he was going ot make it.”

His grandmother, Becky Provost, made the three-hour drive from Plattsburgh. “It’s so great to see that he’s so... after such an incident he wasn’t even supposed to be here. The brain doctor, the doctors, they just couldn’t even believe it. They couldn’t believe all he had been through. And then he woke up, said ‘Mama,’ and every moment just started making better progress,” she said.

Police say Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett filed the charges, not the family.

“We definitely wanted some kind of action to be made,” Nakira explained. " We didn’t know the full extent, but Aweyn definitely has a long way to go.”

Barrett tells WCAX she can’t speak to the facts of the case, but that the state’s child cruelty statute covers neglect or exposure that endangers a child’s life.

“In a child cruelty case, in an accident, it wouldn’t be charged,” Barrett explained. “The statute requires a specific intent, specifically the conduct be knowingly, so it would have to be something more than an accident.”

While this situation has been challenging, Zachary and Nakira say they want other parents to be mindful and learn from this.

“Pool safety is a must. Gates, fences, high enough fences,” Zachary said. “Adult supervision for sure, we’re just thankful he’s alive.”

Kevin West is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday. In the meantime, there is a GoFundMe for the family, while they remain out of work, taking care of Aweyn.

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