Family, friends remember Wichita drowning victim

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Family and friends of a Wichita drowning victim gathered on Friday to celebrate his life.

“He could have been saved and that’s the hardest thing that they didn’t even try to save him,” said Shianne Cox.

Phillip Harris had big plans to become an engineer and take care of his mother Velarie Wallace.

“Phillip was a person who loved to live,” said Velarie Wallace.

Wichita police said Harris, 17, and three girls went for a late-night swim at the Horizons East Apartments. Police said a maintenance worker found Harris at the bottom of the pool in the early morning of July 1, 2016. They told KSN at the time, the three girls Harris went swimming with never called 911, even after they found his dead body, because they were scared.

“Sometimes I can’t believe it. I’m in a nightmare. It’s just unreal,” Wallace said.

On Friday, Harris’ family and friends gathered at a Wichita park to remember him.

“I’m happy! I know that these are his true friends,” Wallace said.

“It feels good. You know you’re not alone in the situation. You know there’s other people hurting, other people feeling some type of way about it,” said Phillip’s friend Luckyanna Ellis.

While friends and family said they’re continuing to struggle with losing Harris, they said his death has strengthened their bond.

“His friends, they are like my adopted children now. They have kept me going,” Wallace said.

“We have all learned we are just one big family,” Cox said.

The girls who were with Harris the night he died were charged with trespassing in the case, according to Wichita police.

Right now, there is not a civil or criminal law in Kansas saying someone must help another person in distress. Wallace hopes to change that the next legislative session.