FAMILY COMES first at Remnant Ministries, the Las Vegas church where former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham serves as pastor.
“The family unit is the most important unit in the universe,” the church’s Web site states. “Healthy families are the closest thing to heaven on earth.”
Cunningham’s universe was shattered late Tuesday afternoon when his youngest son accidentally drowned in the family’s back-yard hot tub – the same tub in which Cunningham, an ordained minister, reportedly performs baptisms.
Two-year-old Christian Cunningham, the youngest of Randall and Felicity Cunningham’s four children, was found unresponsive about 4:30 p.m. at their house on East Robindale Road.
“There were several adults and children present in the home and the victim was found floating in a Jacuzzi that was attached to the swimming pool,” Las Vegas police spokesman Bill Cassell said. Police are still investigating the incident, but it seems unlikely that charges will be filed.
“It appears that this is a tragic accident, but it is still under investigation,” Cassell said. “No final decision has been made, but that’s what it looks like at this time.”
Christian, who would have turned 3 in December, was found in the hot tub by a woman whom police did not identify. She began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the toddler, but he was pronounced dead at St. Rose Dominican Hospital. There was no word on plans for a memorial service.
Randall Cunningham, 47, was out of town at the time of the incident, taking a physical for his NFL pension, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
A police officer who was present when Cunningham was told what had happened described the former star at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas as “the strongest man that he’s ever met,” according to Fox5 News in Las Vegas.
“We’re just praying for the family right now and waiting to see what happened,” said Rebecca Kurcz, a member of Remnant Ministries, the nondenominational church Cunningham founded in 2004.
A family friend told ABCNews.com that Christian “was always active and running around, smiling and giving everybody hugs and jumping on their laps.”
“He was so full of life,” said the friend, who asked not to be identified. “He was not only the Cunningham child; he was also the church’s child. He trusted everybody.”
Cassell declined to say yesterday who was in charge of the children when Christian slipped into the hot tub, but police provided no indication that the drowning had been the result of criminal negligence.
“We know healing is going to take time,” a church member who goes by the name Miss Happy told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which first reported the incident. “We ask that everyone pray for the family. It hurts. It hurts.”
She said of Christian: “He touched the lives of anybody who stood there and watched him. He’s one of those little kids, like, ‘I’ll take you home with me.’ ”
When Cunningam was named to the Eagles Honor Roll last year, he carried his wide-eyed son in his arms onto the field for the ceremony. He already sensed that Christian would play football as he grew older.
Yesterday in Philadelphia, where Cunningham played from 1985 to 1995, the Eagles’ front office offered its condolences.
“The entire Eagles organization is horribly saddened by this tragic accident. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to Randall and Felicity and their entire family,” owner Jeffrey Lurie and his wife, Christina, and team president Joe Banner said in a statement.
Cunningham, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, retired in 2002 after 16 NFL seasons. The ultra-mobile quarterback also played for the Minnesota Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens, racking up 4,928 rushing yards.
During the 1998 offseason, Cunningham started a Bible study in his home, which eventually became Remnant Ministries. He returned to UNLV and earned his bachelor’s degree in leisure studies in 2004.
“My desire is to pour out all that God pours into me. By doing so the heart of Jesus will be felt, and many will come to know the savior of the world,” Cunningham says on the church’s Web site. “It was He who gave His life as a ransom for all who would believe in His name. And, as long as we remain heavenly minded, He will accomplish His will through us.”
The Cunninghams have three other children, Randall II, Vashti and Grace. Since January, Cunningham has been working at Silverado High School, in Las Vegas, primarily as the offensive coordinator. His oldest son will be a freshman at the school in the fall.
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