Experts call for vigilance as child drownings happen quickly, silently

Photo courtesy of PR Image Factory via iStock,/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A recent spate of drownings and near-drownings have safety experts cautioning parents and caregivers to be ever diligent when it comes to children and water.

Drowning is silent and once a child slips underwater they “don’t make a sound,” so there is no audio alert that the child is in danger, David Heaton, Southwest Utah Public Health Department public information officer said.

Photo by Bicho Raro | iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Silent and deadly, particularly when it comes to children.

On the afternoon of May 30 emergency personnel responded to a possible drowning at the Best Western Coral Hills at 125 E. St. George Boulevard involving a three-year-old who was found in the hotel’s pool.

A family member found the 3-year-old child submerged near the bottom of the pool and pulled the toddler from the water, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said.

“The child was underwater for approximately 2-3 minutes when they pulled him out unconscious and unresponsive,” Stoker said.

A bystander overhearing the commotion ran to the pool area and began performing CPR on the toddler with the ambulance en route.

Paramedics found the child “breathing and crying,” Stoker said, “which was great news to hear.”

The toddler was then placed on oxygen and transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center.

“Things moved very quickly once the 911 call was made,” Stoker added, and paramedics were on scene only a couple of minutes before taking the child to the hospital.

Water safety poster | Image courtesy of Children’s Water Safety, St. George News

There was a much different outcome a week earlier when emergency personnel responded to a reported drowning in a pond behind a residence in Mesquite, Nevada.

A three-year old boy was pulled from the water and lifesaving measures by officers and emergency personnel were unsuccessful as the toddler was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later.

In March, a 6-year-old girl was pulled from a pool at an apartment complex in St. George after she slipped underwater for an extended period of time.

She was unresponsive while lifesaving measures were administered and she was breathing by the time paramedics transported her to the hospital.

Further north on June 5, emergency responders in West Valley City were dispatched to a reported drowning involving another child who was pulled from the bottom of the pool.

Roxeanne Vainuku, public information officer for the West Valley Police Department, said the 3-year-old was playing in the pool area when she fell into the water at the deep end of the pool.

A 10-year-old child was swimming in the pool at the time and began screaming for help when she saw the toddler at the bottom of the pool.

Water safety poster | Image courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers, St. George News

“That girl’s father was alerted by the screaming and jumped into the pool,” Vainuku said, “and once he pulled the toddler from the bottom he immediately started CPR. ”

Police and medical arrived on scene and continued CPR while the child was placed into the ambulance and transported to the hospital in “extremely critical condition.

The child’s condition was stabilized by Wednesday evening, and on Thursday hospital staff told police she expected to make a full recovery, Vainuku said.

“Thanks to this little girl for spotting her so quickly and then to her father for pulling the child from the pool and starting CPR,” she said. “They saved her life.”

When the incident occurred, the girl was playing with her 5-year-old sister while the mother returned to the apartment.

Vainku added that police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.

In Utah, drowning is the third leading cause of death among children 17 years of age and under, Heaton said.

Between 2011 through 2015, there were 42 child drowning deaths across the state and more than half were under the age of five, the most vulnerable age group.

Looking back further, Heaton said, more than 40 percent of childhood drowning deaths over the last 10 years occurred in open bodies of water, while 30 percent occurred in a pool.

The data also show that nearly 20 percent of the deaths reported during that period took place in a bathtub, majority of which were infants less than a year old.

“Remember, kids can drown in a pretty small amount of water, sometimes as small as one inch of water,” Heaton said. “Kids should never be left in a tub alone, not ever.”

Water left in any pool, bucket, tub or container can present a drowning hazard for children, particularly smaller children.

“Prevention is the key with this type of danger, which includes keeping the home and yard clear of drowning hazards ” Heaton said.

Timmy Key, aquatics manager for the city of St. George, said that prevention is the ultimate goal when it comes to water safety.

“CPR classes are important, but we want to catch the kid before they get in the water without a life jacket or adult supervision; that is the focus here.”

Key said that children should never be allowed near a pool without the supervision of an adult, or near an open body of water without a life jacket.

“That means putting the cell phone down and paying attention to them while they are in the pool,” Key said.

One of the most important things any parent can do to reduce the risk of drowning is to enroll their children in swim lessons.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that most children age 4 and older should learn to swim, but new evidence suggests that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming lessons.

The Red Cross offers swim lessons that focus on water safety, including the “WHALE Tales” program, which is a free course that can be taught by any aquatic leader or instructor or school teacher.

The program teaches safety tips such as swimming with a buddy, learning when and when not to go near the water, and even how to enter and exit the water.

That skill alone can save a young child’s life by enabling them to swim to the side of the pool and then climb out to safety, Key said.

“A child might hold onto the edge of the pool but if they don’t know to shimmy to the stairs and get out, then they can tire and slip back under the water before anyone sees them.”

CPR can mean the difference between life or death for a child pulled from the water and not breathing. Classes are available throughout Southern Utah.

CPR/AED, or automatic external defibrillator, classes are taught at the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center, at 1144 N. 2400 W. in St. George. The classes take place at 5:30 every fourth Wednesday of the month, Key said.

The Red Cross also offers CPR/AED classes using a blended learning model, he said, where the first part of the course is completed online, followed by in-class practice exercises.

The St. George Fire Department also offers monthly CPR/AED training exercises that are free to the public. Group training classes are also available, Battalion Chief Robert Hooper of the St. George Fire Department said.

“The group classes are great for businesses or companies that want 20 or 30 of their employees trained in CPR, for example,” Hooper said.

For more information contact the St. George Fire Department at 435-627-4150.

Southern Utah CPR also offers courses in first aid and CPR. For more information call 435-216-4500.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Anon June 8, 2018 at 10:59 am

    This is so important. And to educate yourself on secondary drowning.

  • mmsandie June 9, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Education is important also parenting classes and charges of child neglect etc.. when a parent leaves the gate open to the pool, or goes in the house to get food or texts her friend and doesn,t watch 5he children. They should be charged.. doesn,t matter how many kids you have you have to watch them all, and get swimming lessons at early age, they even star5 babies, learning to float.. but kids see others jumping in the water and follow,,

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