Over the weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a Bibb County firefighter-in-training drowned while trying to aid three children who appeared to be having trouble swimming.
Two of the children, ages five and seven, were sons of Michael Jones, the drowned man. The third was an 8-year-old girl. All the children were hauled to shore in good shape. As of Monday morning, it was unknown why Jones, presumably a healthy 24-year-old with some experience in dramatic situations due to his training, went under in Lake Tobesofkee and never re-surfaced.
Jones was credited as doing what any good parent or fireman would do. It is a tragic story and, unfortunately, not uncommon.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with an average of ten people drowning every day. Latest figures from the CDC website show that in 2007, some 3,443 people lost their lives in drowning accidents with another 496 drowned in boat-related accidents (there are two different categories).
Facts behind the statistics are more unsettling. Most who drown are children, with (for whatever reason), 80 percent of drowning victims being male.
“A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child age 4 and under,” according to the?Orange County California Fire Authority.
Most drownings occur in private residential swimming pools, but 19 percent of adolescent drownings occur in public pools where a lifeguard is on duty, according to the CDC.
It’s one thing for an adult to drown. Often these are related to boating accidents (and very often drunkenness) during summer holidays. If you are an adult, be responsible around water – that’s about all that can be said.
But it’s another, more horrible, thing to hear of children who drown – you know, they just couldn’t stay out of the pool no matter what their parents had told them. The story is almost always the same (and the CDC statistics bear this out): a family is either at home with their pool or staying at a vacation spot with a pool. The children aren’t supposed to be at the pool. The adults think they are inside, but, unfortunately, the kids snuck out for one more cannonball off the diving board.
Parents who believe they are being vigilant need to know that, contrary to what most people think, drowning victims don’t thrash or yell or flounder and make a commotion. It’s plausible that a poolside parent with a magazine will not notice when trouble starts.
The most important thing anyone can do to keep their children safe around a pool is simply pay attention.
If your child can’t swim, there are various floats and protective devices that will help keep them afloat, but, AND READ THIS CLOSELY, the “water wings” are meant to help inexperienced swimmers, they don’t magically bring a child’s head back to the surface if they get flipped upside down. These toys are great confidence builders. This extra confidence, however, can lead to hazardous situations when kids who can’t swim think they are automatically safe in the deep end due to a toy.
Parents please recognize that Georgia is famous for blistering July and August days. Going to the pool is more a necessity than a treat, so get your kids swimming lessons. Even if you’re not planning to take them to the pool, at some point, their class, church or friends will go swimming – maybe hopping a fence with no adult around. Those are times that swimming lessons save lives. Kids shouldn’t be in a pool without adults, but many a tragedy has happened when kids do what they aren’t supposed to do.
CDC statistics show that having even an introductory swimming lesson greatly reduces the likelihood of a child drowning later.
Every kid deserves the chance to cool off in a pool this summer, but every parent has the responsibility to see that they do so safely.