Swimming instructors and water safety experts are urging Twin Cities families to stay safe this summer following the recent drowning death of a child along with reports of several near-drownings of children.
"Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional or accidental death for kids under 15, but I don't think people realize how prevalent drowning is," said Scott Taylor, co-founder of Abbey's Hope Foundation, a pool and water safety nonprofit. "They also don't realize how preventable drowning is. It is 100 percent preventable."
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Authorities have responded to multiple incidents the past two weeks. "We have seen a spike in near drownings so far this year," said Jon Collins, a spokesperson with Hennepin County. There have been four incidents so far this year, compared to a total of six in both 2016 and 2017, he said.
A 5-year-old boy was pulled from a pool at an Eagan apartment complex on May 22. Police officials said the boy and his sister slipped out of their unit and went to the pool. It was gated and locked, but officials believe the boy climbed the fence and got into the pool.
A nearby construction crew heard the screams of the boy's sister and responded. One of the workers pulled the boy out of the pool and performed CPR. The boy was listed in stable condition as of May 29, according to Eagan police.
In Wright County, an unconscious 3-year-old was pulled from a residential pool in Woodland Township. First responders tried to revive the child before he was life flighted to a Twin Cities hospital. He died on Sunday.
On Saturday, a girl was found at the bottom of a pool at an apartment complex in Edina. The girl, whose age was not reported, was removed from the pool and given CPR and then transported to Fairview Southdale Hospital. The child's condition is unknown.
Two of the three incidents reportedly occurred away from adult supervision, but even with parents around drownings can be quick, silent and hard to detect.
Experts said supervision is the first of many steps in water safety.
"You should never swim alone, making sure that everybody that is swimming is always supervised, and that adults should be consistently and actively watching their children," said Shannon Kinstler, YMCA senior aquatic director.
Taylor said the designated adult's only responsibility should be minding the young swimmers because "when everyone is watching, no one is watching."
"No phones. No magazines. No drinking alcohol. No going to the bathroom. Your sole job is to watch the children," he added. Abbey's Hope Foundation calls this person a water watchdog and has a dog tag for people to wear while on duty.
It's important for parents and caregivers to know their swimming ability and their children's.
"And if they don't know how to swim, a Coast Guard-approved life jacket is also a good resource for safety," Kinstler said.
Also, they should learn how to swim if they don't know how, Kinstler said.
Abbey's Hope and the YMCA offer free lessons to families who earn less than $50,000 a year.
Taylor, whose daughter Abbey died after sustaining injuries in a pool with a faulty drain, said parents should also be mindful of the structural safety of pools and ensure children don't have unsupervised access to pools.