One of the most refreshing activities for a hot summer day is a plunge in a chilly swimming pool, and you can find them all over our southern state – in residential backyards, community centers, amusement parks, motels, and apartment complexes. They’re the site of much frivolity, as well as athletic competition, but they can also be the site of tragic accidents.
Already this year we’ve read of several drownings in South Carolina swimming pools. On the last day of May, a 2-year-old Columbia boy drowned in a home swimming pool. The child and his 3-year-old sister managed to get out of the house while their parents slept, by piling up child-sized plastic furniture, climbing on it and unlocking the door.
Just two weeks later, a 3-year-old drowned in her grandmother’s swimming pool in Abbeville County. The woman went into the bathroom and when she came out she was not able to find the little girl in the house. She discovered her outside, in the swimming pool. The grandmother administered CPR, but the child did not survive.
On Friday, June 20, 2014, a young woman was found unconscious in a Conway apartment complex pool. Reportedly, she had been swimming alone there for about 15 minutes. The coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning.
According to the CDC, there are about 3,500 drowning deaths each year, not including those that happen from boating accidents. That’s about 10 people per day. Children ages 1 to 4 are most at risk. Only birth defects account for more deaths in this age group. If you extend the age group to include ages 1 to 14, only motor vehicle accidents cause more unintentional accident-related deaths.
What factors increase the risk of a drowning death?
- Lack of swimming ability. A survey conducted for the Red Cross found that even though 80 percent of Americans said they could swim, only 56 percent of them could perform all five of the basic skills that could save their life in the water (see below). Less than half of the parents of children aged 4-17 describe their children as possessing these necessary skills and yet more than 90 percent expected their kids would be participating in water activities this summer.
- Lack of barriers such as fencing. A four-sided fence separating the pool area from the house and yard is said to reduce a child’s risk of drowning by 83% compared to a regular property-line fence. Additionally, the fenced area should be well secured and inaccessible to children. According to USASwimming.org, most youngsters who drowned in home swimming pools had last been seen inside the house, had been out of sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the accident.
- Lack of supervision. It goes without saying that children should be kept under constant supervision in the pool area. This is not always easy to do, especially when the pool is crowded and there are dozens of little heads bouncing up and down. A tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye. Stay close enough to reach your child at all times, and don’t get caught up in conversations, reading or sunbathing, assuming a lifeguard or another parent will be able to rescue your child in an emergency.
Swimming lessons won’t prevent all water tragedies, but they certainly will increase a person’s chances of surviving. We alluded above to the five basic water safety skills the Red Cross says could save your life in a swimming pool. Can you and your children do these things?
- Step or jump into water over your head, return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute, without a flotation device
- Tread water or float in a full circle and find an exit from the pool
- Swim 25 yards (the length of a standard pool)
- Exit from the water without using a ladder.
It’s worth testing all of your family members on these skills, even if you and they think they are safe swimmers.
We hope you’re enjoying your summer in the sun. We hope and pray your family doesn’t have to endure the sorrow experienced by those who lost a loved one in a drowning accident. In some cases negligence plays a part in swimming pool accidents, and in those situations the Louthian Law Firm is pledged to help the grieving family find at least some measure of justice from the responsible parties. Call (803) 454-1200 if you have any questions about a swimming pool accident in the Columbia area this summer.