From Tragedy to Triumph
By Jim Mack
Baseball held a special place in the hearts of two young Colorado ball players, a bond between two children and “The Game” that was unquestioned.
Dillon Dixey, 11, and Logan Dixey, 8, loved baseball. The inseparable brothers played the game, watched the game and breathed the game.
Dillon was a throwback to the old days, a young boy who would fall asleep at night listening to the Colorado Rockies’ games on the radio. When morning came, he sprinted to check out all the baseball statistics in the newspaper. He aspired to be a professional pitcher someday.
Logan was a gutsy young man, who took pride in having strength beyond his years. He loved life, whether playing with his friends or telling jokes to a room full of adults. His home was behind the plate, a catcher with the “tough guy” mentality.
It’s been said many times there is nothing in life more difficult for parents to cope with than the loss of a child. Losing two is even more unimaginable. For Ken and Bambi Dixey of Parker, Colorado , that tragic reality lives with them every day.
It was summer, 2000, as the Dixey family joined their long-time friends, Mark and Polly Tingey on an annual vacation to Lake Powell for a bit of water skiing and some fun in the sun. Located along the Utah-Arizona border, the area had become a “magical” place for the Dixey’s. The families shared a one-week time-share on a 55-foot Stardust Cruiser, the Canyon Explorer , which proved to be large enough to accommodate the more than 10 adults and children who shared the festivities.
On the evening of August 2, the entire gang was relaxing at their favorite area of Lake Powell , Neskahi Wash , when suddenly, the Dixey’s lives would soon turn upside down. After dinner that night some of the children were cooling off by jumping into the water from the swim platform at the rear of the boat. This seemed innocent enough, but suddenly the kids’ laughter turned to screams as the Dixey’s two youngest boys had gone under the water. They would never come back.
“Dillon and Logan were always great swimmers, so we knew immediately something had happened,” Bambi Dixey said. “We were just trying to find them. We were calling for them, calling for help and praying.”
The families attempted diligently to reach help via cell phone, but it was difficult to get through due to a poor signal caused by the gigantic canyon walls. Ken Dixey and Mark Tingey attempted numerous dives deep into the lake to locate the children, but came up empty-handed. At 10:20 p.m. Utah time, Mark Tingey grabbed a cell phone and raced out of the canyon on a ski boat where the signal could register. National Park Service dispatch received the call and sent divers to the scene. They tried diligently, but their effort was cut short because of darkness. Dillon and Logan could not be found. The deep darkness of the water made the situation a nearly impossible endeavor. At approximately 6 a.m. the following morning, the boys’ bodies were recovered by divers and the cause of death was identified as drowning due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
“We had no idea anything like this could possibly happen,” Bambi Dixey recalled. “The boys were swimming outside like they had done for several years in the past. Nobody ever warned us or informed us that there was a danger of any kind. We had no idea.”
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigations, CO poisoning causes approximately 500 unintentional deaths each year in the United States alone. Although CO poisonings often have been reported to occur in enclosed and semi-enclosed environments, they can also occur in open-air environments.
NIOSH confirmed last year that since the start of 2001, a full five months following the Dixey boys’ deaths, there have been four additional CO deaths on Lake Powell and 47 non-fatal poisonings. In the past eight years, 74 recognized deaths have taken place nationwide, including 13 on Lake Powell.
According to Jane McCammon, Director of the NIOSH Denver Field Office, symptoms of CO poisoning might resemble those of motion sickness or heat exhaustion and can include headache, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. McCammon warns recreational boaters to be aware that boat exhaust can flow back into the rear of the boat and that CO in the exhaust is undetectable because it is colorless and odorless. In addition, McCammon said people should avoid swimming or body surfing near the exhaust system while the boat or generator is running.
Since that horrific day, life will never be the same for the Dixey family. But relentlessly, and without hesitation, they knew something had to be done to try to make sure the tragedy that took their young boys never happened to anyone else.
Ken and Bambi formed an alliance with McCammon and also received attention and support from Congressman Scott McInnis (R-Colorado). McInnis has been instrumental in insisting on higher safety standards for houseboat and generator manufacturers. Along with Congressman Hayworth (AZ), McInnis has introduced two bills which would set new safety standards in regards to CO.
The Dixey’s saddening story, along with carbon monoxide awareness issues became prominent on a national level through the popular television program 48 Hours.
On May 2, 2001 the Dixey’s testified before Congress in Washington , D.C. on the dangers of carbon monoxide from houseboats. As a result, the Coast Guard forced a mandatory recall of existing Stardust houseboats, making it a priority for manufacturers to correct design flaws by rerouting the exhaust away from the rear of the boat and out from under the swim platform. A lawsuit to reinforce the recall was also successfully initiated.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Ken and Bambi turned to each other for strength, and rather than spending the rest of their lives angry, bewildered and without a purpose, they decided to make a positive impact on the youth of today and of tomorrow.
Along with a nationwide campaign to raise awareness on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning on houseboats, Ken and Bambi started the Double Angel Foundation. In loving memory of their treasured little boys, the foundation is dedicated to giving other children the opportunity to pursue their passion for baseball. It is a vision and a dream that will last forever.
Thanks to a passionate board of directors and countless other caring people, the foundation has raised $1.2 million towards the construction of a $3 million four-field youth memorial baseball complex in Parker.
In addition to countless cash donations that have been received, the foundation has an impressive list of in-kind supporters for the construction stage.
Double Angel Memorial Baseball Park will be a true “Field of Dreams,” complete with state-of-the-art lighting, a playground area, batting cages, warm-up areas, a children’s memorial garden and an instructional facility.
A brick campaign has been established for the walkways, where families can engrave their own specialized message that will be a fixture within the park forever.
Douglas County ‘s newest and most distinctive ballpark will be more than capable of hosting extended level tournaments on a local and national level for children of all ages.
“We want this park to be the focal point of the community,” said Jim Anest, Double Angel boardmember and head baseball coach. “Our vision is to see the stands packed every Friday night with people watching their kids play baseball. It will be a wonderful tribute to Dillon and Logan , and a special gift to our community.”
Through an agreement with the Parker Water and Sanitation District, Double Angel has secured 40 acres of land for the site, and construction is set to begin early in 2004. This unique facility is scheduled to be open for competition next summer.
“We want the fields to be a place of beauty and peace, and to be a tribute to the children,” Bambi Dixey said. “We have seen small dreams become big dreams and small ideas become big ideas. I call it a miracle.”
A unique design calls for the complex to accommodate one field with high school/college dimensions, with the additional three fields sized a bit smaller for the younger ballplayers to enjoy.
Anest said the larger field will feature “old time” irregular dimensions for the outfield fences, making it a special place to play ball. It will be approximately 380 feet to center, 315 to left and 300 to right. To make matters more interesting, the right field wall will feature a monster 20-foot fence.
The smaller fields will range from 320 to 345 feet to center. The number 11, worn by both Dillon and Logan, will be retired and displayed on the outfield fences.
“The complex will be versatile so the fields can benefit all the young kids,” Anest said. “It will be a focal point for years and years. Everybody will feel they have some involvement in the fields. It’s an honor and a tribute to all the people who have put money, energy and services into this project. I think baseball and children go together and children are an inspiration to all of us.”
Once the initial phase of building the complex is in full gear, the foundation will set its sights on developing programs and events for kids from a variety of backgrounds, including inner city and special needs children. The Double Angel Foundation has already initiated a scholarship program to assist children from all walks of life. Each year, Double Angel will sponsor up to 10 little league ball players, ages five to 16, at $500 per child.
Dillon and Logan loved everything about the game of baseball, from rushing to get the morning paper to find out the latest baseball statistics, to strapping on the cleats themselves. It was a passion that will live on. Double Angel Memorial Baseball Park will help other children experience all the magic baseball affords, and will allow kids to learn the value of camaraderie, self-esteem, sportsmanship and citizenship – all very life-like and valuable traits of Double Angel Foundation.
The boys would be smiling.
To find out more about the Double Angel Foundation, and how you can help, visit www.doubleangel.org or call 303-841-2420.