Shayley had nagged her mother all morning about going to the pool. The 3-year-old had piled her bright pink swim fins, matching goggles, and pool toys by the front door before eating breakfast. Her mom worked from home, but knew she had her lunch hour free to let her daughter play in the water for a little bit. However, she didn’t plan for the phone call from an angry client. She’d only looked away from Shayley for what seemed a few seconds to look up and see her little girl unmoving, floating face down on top of the water in their neighborhood’s Kiddie Pool.
Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, with most happening in swimming pools. Many of these occur even if a child is not expected to be near water, such as when they gain unsupervised access to pools. Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury death behind motor vehicle crashes for children ages 1–14, according to data collected by the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Mission Viejo’s Mayor Wendy Bucknam said the city was proclaiming the months of May through August as “Drowning Prevention Awareness” at the city council meeting on Tuesday, May 24.
The city had kicked off its campaign the previous weekend, partnering with Stop Drowning Now to educate the community on drowning prevention and water safety.
“Drowning can happen in as little as 2 inches of water,” she said. “That includes inflatable pools, spas, bathtubs, the ocean, and other bodies of water.”
It also happens in public pools. In July 2018, a 1-year-old child drowned in a pool at the city-owned Sierra Recreation facility. The infant was there with parents and friends when it happened, and paramedics could not revive the child. There were lifeguards on duty, authorities said shortly afterward.
Less than a week later, city officials announced they were working with police and emergency services to put together formal water safety training information for the community.
“In light of the tragic drowning at the Sierra Recreation Center on Sunday, the City of Mission Viejo, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Orange County Fire Authority are working to ensure residents know how to stay safe in and around the water,” according to a news release.
Little Shayley learned to swim while she was still an infant, and her parents diligently watched her while she was in the water, knowing it only took a few minutes for someone to drown. What saved her life was her mother administering CPR immediately and another person who was at the pool calling 9–1–1. By the time the paramedics arrived, Shayley was responsive and coughing and vomiting water.
Learn more about water safety and drowning prevention by visiting Stop Drowning Now’s website for resources. If your community has a public pool, you can set up a program with your local fire department or other EMS agency.