In the children’s book, Josh the Baby Otter, a mother otter teaches her baby Josh the importance of water safety. Josh learns to float and learns that, in all cases, children should stay away from water unless accompanied by an adult.
At first read, the book seems like a fun public service announcement, but then you realize it was written by the parents of Joshua Collingsworth who was 2½ when he slipped out of their sight and drowned in the family pool.
Joshua’s parents, who had taken safety precautions and installed a cover, fence and security camera, found Joshua unconscious in the backyard pool in 2008. Just like most other stories you hear about unintentional drowning in young children, Joshua’s parents thought he was inside, but he had wandered into the pool area through the backyard gate (accidentally left open), and he fell into the water.
He died three days later from complications.
After the tragic event, Joshua’s parents founded the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation and wrote Josh the Baby Otter as a warning to parents about the importance of teaching children about water safety.
Joshua’s story is not uncommon. According to the Center for Disease Control, children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2007, almost 30 percent of children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury died from drowning.
Fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years.
According to the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation website, and contrary to what most people think, drowning victims don’t make a lot of noise or movement when they drown. They are typically silent, so much so that even parents sitting poolside, who are not paying close attention, may not notice if a child is in distress. The site reports that 90 percent of drowning deaths occur within 10 yards of safety.
According to the Center for Disease Control, most drownings occur in private residential swimming pools, but 19 percent of adolescent drownings occur in public pools where a lifeguard is on duty.
The Collingsworth memorial website also warns about the false security parents get from flotation devices. Parents need to be aware that these devices are not guaranteed to save your child’s life. Water wings, for example, are meant to assist inexperienced swimmers but are not designed to keep your child’s head above water in an emergency situation. Many drownings also occur from improperly secured life jackets.
We know accidental drownings are not limited to children, but as an adult, you are responsible for yourself and for using common sense when in the water. Don’t get too drunk. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Children’s safety, on the other hand, is the responsibility of the parent.
The number one preventive measure for accidental drowning in children is for parents to pay extra close attention when they are around any body of water.
After that, and while we know it is not guaranteed to make your child 100-percent drown-proof, we think all children who are unable to swim or who are not strong swimmers need to get lessons. It has been reported that even introductory lessons greatly decrease the chances for drowning.
Unfortunately, there are limited options for swimming lessons in Pickens County. Many people who want lessons have to drive down to Canton.
Maybe the county should consider offering Red Cross certified swimming lessons at the county pool at a reasonable rate. This would be a way to educate the public and keep kids safe and would bring the county a little extra money to cover pool costs.
It gets hot here in the summer, and every child deserves the chance to take a dip, but as parents, we need to be sure children are safe when they do that.
If you would like to learn more about the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation visit www.joshtheotter.org.