Local News

Drowning death points to need for safety measures

SEBRING - One of the most dangerous aspects of children being in the water is the misperceptions about drowning, says Kevin Stoker, aquatic director the YMCA in Highlands County. "People think drowning takes a long time, but in reality it only takes a few seconds," Stoker said. And that can lead to a lack of focus on children in the pool, he added. Stoker' comments about drowning came little more than a week after a 1-year-old child fell into a pool n Avon Park and drowned on June 9. Nationwide, statistics show that Florida is consistently among the top states for drowning, particularly for children the age of 5.
"There's enough kids that drown each year in Florida to fill three or four preschools," Stoker said. According the Florida Department of Health, Florida has more children, ages 1-4, drown than other state, with a rate of nearly seven drownings in that age group per 100,000 population. The Centers for Disease Control also says that in Florida, drowning is the top cause of death for children ages 14 and younger. Stoker said that inadequate supervision is a major factor. The parents in a lot of cases are present, but don't notice anything until it's too late, Stoker said. All it takes is for parents to take their eyes off their children for a few seconds, he said. Some parents will leave the area temporarily, thinking their children are safe because they can swim, he said. But parents should never leave their children unsupervised, he added. Drowning isn't the noisy event that many people would expect, he said. It's not typical that the victim is seen moving his hands and asking for help, Stoker said. "Nine times out of 10 you don't see or hear it unless you're focused on it," he said. In many cases even when children are rescued and given CPR, they suffer brain damage that causes memory problems or learning disabilities, the CDC says. Stokes said in some cases when children play in the pool, one child may get pushed into a deeper water area that they cannot handle. He said that occurred recently at the YMCA pool and the child had to be helped. YMCA classes do teach children techniques to save their lives if they're in a dangerous situation, he said. National statistics show most drowning victims are male and that the largest numbers are African Americans, the CDC said. No definitive reasons were given for the differences. Besides adequate supervision of children in the pool, The Florida Health Department also recommends that pools be secured when not in use. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834