For most kids between the ages of 4 and 24, summer days are best spent at the swimming pool. The water can work even better than the air conditioning to cool down kids in the sweltering heat, and the exercise is usually enough to keep them entertained and ready to crash at the end of the day, which is perfect for parents.
But parents are all too aware these days of the dangers of drowning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,500 fatal unintentional drownings happened between 2005 and 2014, and that equates to about 10 deaths per day. One out of every five victims in a child aged 14 or younger, and for every one child that dies, the statistics show that there another five that nearly drowned and needed emergency care.
Every case of drowning is a tragedy, but there are lessons in each of them that can help parents to plan a fun day at the beach, the pool or the lake but help keep everyone safe. The sad stories that we retell below talk about supervision, fencing and drains and more that could save kids' lives. And most of them are from earlier this summer, just a sampling of the things that can go wrong in such a short period of time that can help arm parents with knowledge.
Here are 13 tragic cases of drowning parents need to know to protect their kids.
13 Lifeguard Lesson
Lifeguards have a very tricky job. They have to keep an eye on an entire pool full of people and make sure that everybody is OK at all times. People can drown in the time it takes to scan from one end of the pool to another. And often times the victim doesn't even have the chance to scream or get anyone's attention.
A video has been circulating of a wavepool, where one boy lost his raft and very nearly drowned. The video challenges people to spot the drowning victim, and with dozens of people in the pool, it's really difficult. Luckily, the lifeguard is on top of things, and she blows her whistle, dives in and helps the boy struggling to stay above water. We doubt that many other people would have been so perfectly prepared to rescue the child, and it makes all of us realize just how valuable well-trained lifeguards are. Public pools should always have a lifeguard on duty, but we all should keep our eyes on our kids as well. It's an important lesson that could save lives.
12 Split-Second Distraction
One summer day, a mom and her older children were helping 4-year-old Xander to learn to swim. They practiced getting his head under water and splashed and played. Then as little Xander was walking along a lazy river, the mom turned to help her daughter get a piece of watermelon while her friend watched the kids.
That mom's child needed attention too, so she turned away, and as soon as she did, little Xander slipped under the water. The parents were paying attention, and he was pulled out just a minute or so later. CPR was given right away, and paramedics got a heart beat. But unfortunately, that wasn't enough.
After spending several days at Cook Children's Hospital in Texas, Xander died and his organs were donated. Now Xander's mom is an advocate for the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition because she learned that drowning can happen to any family, and wrote in a blog post that "even too seconds is too long to turn your back on a child in the water."
11 Importance Of The Fence
One Florida dad came home late from work, and realized his children weren't in their beds where they should have been. As the mom lay sleeping, the kids had gotten up and out of the apartment. Where the found the little ones is the worst part — they were in the apartment pool.
Both children, ages 1 and 3, were transported to the hospital, but they were pronounced dead. This happened in Cape Coral earlier this May, and news reports from the town uncovered that this tragedy didn't have to happen. Florida law requires that there be a fence around a pool for just this reason, but a year earlier, the fence was removed at this apartment complex.
About 1 in 10 child drownings involve kids getting around a pool fence, but this one didn't even have that deterrent because someone thought that the aesthetics was more important than safety. Kids love the water, and they don't understand the dangers. So this tragic case reminds us of the importance of having a fence to protect them from this terrible fate.
10 Usher's Son
Child drownings can happen to anyone, if the circumstances are right. Luckily, though, this story that happened to the son of singer Usher Raymond has a happy ending. And it also can teach us a lesson about how dangerous pool drains can be, so that we can keep it from happening to our kids.
In 2013, Usher's then-5-year-old, who is named Usher Raymond V, was swimming at the pool at his house when he somehow got stuck in the drain. He got stuck so bad that a housekeeper and another woman who were watching him couldn't get him out. They had to run and get help from two subcontractors who just happened to be at the house. Luckily, those two men were able to free him and start CPR.
Little Usher spent the night in the hospital as a precaution, and he is fine. But things could have turned out differently if it weren't for the people in the hous to help. Pool drains can be really powerful, so parents should keep kids away from them as much as possible.
9 Lake Death
Unfortunately, this isn't he only water tragedy that has happened to Usher's family. A year before the pool drain incident, when Usher and his wife Tameka Foster were going through a very public divorce, Tameka's older son Kile was spending a fun day on the lake with friends and family.
Kile, just 12, was riding on an inner tube behind a boat, when a family friend accidentally hit the tube with a jet ski. Both boys were injured, but Kile's injuries were the most severe. Doctors were not able to find brain activity, and eventually he was taken off of life support and died.
That tragedy was one of dozens that happen each summer on lakes across the nation due to the use of jet skis, tubes and other fun recreational activities. Parents need to be aware of the dangers of those activities and teach their children how to be as safe as possible.
8 Jacuzzi Tragedy
Pools aren't the only place where tragedy happens for kids. At one hotel in Ireland, a family learned that when their little one died in a jacuzzi. The child, just a couple months shy of 4, was participating in a hotel kids club, and security cameras captured him as a walked out of the changing room and right into the hot tub. It took just a moment for tragedy to strike.
Unfortunately, nobody could see the toddler when he was underneath the water as it churned, and when he floated to the top, the movement of the water made it look like he was swimming. His grandfather eventually found him, but by then it was too late.
According to the Daily Mirror, pools in Ireland aren't regulated, and the tragedy, which happened in March, has spurred a movement for child safety measures. We hope that happens so that other tragedies can be avoided.
7 Poolside Play
Even when kids have no intention of going swimming, they need to be careful around the swimming pool. That is what the deaths of a Michigan father and son taught us earlier this summer. The two didn't plan on swimming that day, but still, tragedy struck.
Police believe that the boy, just 3, fell into the pool, and his father tried to save him. The pool was only three to five feet deep, but unfortunately both of them perished. According to news reports, police removed a tricycle from the scene, leading many to believe that the boy fell in on the bike, but the police were still investigating at the time of the report.
Kids need to be safe whenever they are near the water. It can take a split second for them to slip into the water, and even an attentive parent might not be able to stop tragedy from striking.
6 Bathtime Drowning
Parents have to pay attention to their children no matter how little water is around. One of the most dangerous places for an infant, in way too many cases, is in the bathtub. Babies spend time in the bath usually from their first week on earth, and some love the water so much that it is evident early that they will be little swimmers. But even those little ones need constant attention.
A young mother is facing jailtime because she got distracted, after putting her baby in the bath. Baby Zayla, 8 months, died when her mom got distracted after putting her in the bath and starting the water. She said she first got distracted by another child, but then she ended up on Facebook Messenger, texting with a couple of friends. When she discovered Zayla, it was too late.
Drowning in the bathtub can happen year round, so parents need to pay attention and never leave a baby unattended in the bath.
5 Teen Tragedy
Most of the cases we've talked about are young children, many of whom don't know how to swim. But parents need to teach their children water safety from a young age because tragedy can happen, even when they are older.
In June, a Texas couple learned that when they lost two children to drowning while on vacation. The children were 17 and 12, and while the parents said they knew how to tread water, they admitted that they weren't strong swimmers.
The two kids were swimming together, and it isn't clear if one sibling was trying to help the other when tragedy struck. It's a terrible tragedy that we hope that parents will learn from.
4 Life Jacket Lesson
It's so sad whenever a kid gets in trouble in the water, and this June, public safety officials made a plea to the public when two boys playing at a lake hd life-changing experiences. The older boy, just 10, died in the incident, although lifeguards were able to build a human chain to sweep the bottom of the beach and save the second child, a 9-year-old.
The Illinois officers credited the lifeguards quick action with saving that child's life, but they were devastated by the older child's death. They took the opportunity to make a plea for kids to wear life jackets.
If I can get that [drowning] number to zero where I can encourage somebody to put on a life jacket tomorrow when they watch this interview, then I've done my job," said Illinois Conservation Officer Jonathon Boyd in a WNDU report. Life jackets save lives, and we hope that Officer Boyd's plea will convince parents of that.
3 Dry drowning
Little Frankie Delgado died after battling what seemed like the stomach bug. But it was only after doctors couldn't save the boy that his parents realized what went wrong. According to Today, the boy had slowly been going through the affects of dry drowning, after he was knocked over by a wave at the beach.
Dry drowning is when water gets stuck in the vocal cords after going in the nose or mouth. The muscles spasm, and it may look like the child is choking. Another kind of case, secondary drowning, happens when the water goes into the person's lungs and they get inflamed. Both can cause kids to die days after they actually encounter water.
Doctors say to look for signs of trouble breathing, and they encourage parents to have children checked out if they sense an issue. We should all learn from little Frankie and heed the warnings.
2 Boating Disaster
No matter how experienced a child is at being on the water, parents have to remember that they are still children and it isn't a good idea to let them go on their own. That decision — to let her son go on the water alone — is the topic of a court case recently filed two years after the disappearance of two teenagers off the coast of Florida.
Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen are believe to have drowned in the Atlantic Ocean when they took a fishing trip. Austin was an experienced boater, and his friend often joined him on excursions. But the weather turned for the worst that day in July of 2015. Their boat and their life jackets were found, but the boys were never seen again.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found Austin's mother negligent in allowing her child to go out on his own, although the state's attorney hasn't moved forward with charges. Perry's parents had forbidden him to go out alone and said that Austin's mom knew that but let him go anyway. They are considering a lawsuit. And all involved are grieving two 14-year-olds who were great boaters but not experienced enough to handle a storm.
1 Unusual Circumstances
We've mentioned many settings where kids have tragically drowned. From the bathtub to the lake to the pool, many parents have a healthy fear of the dangers in those locations, and they try their best to keep their children safe. But there can be unusual circumstances that lead to tragedy in ways that parents don't expect.
Earlier this year, a family in India learned that the hard way. They lost twin toddlers to a terrible case of drowning that most parents would never expect. The kids drowned in the washing machine, when the mom popped out of the room for a few minutes to get detergent.
According to the story in The Sun, the mother let the washing machine fill up with water before going just down the street to get the soap. When she returned, she couldn't find the kids. After searching all around, they discovered them in the worst possible place — face down in the washing machine. Police thought that the children may have tried to peek inside out of curiosity, but they fell in and tragedy struck. The case is a warning that we should keep our children close at all times, especially when water is concerned.
Sources: CDC, PopSugar, Daily Mirror, Cook Children's Hospital, Today, Fox 2 Detroit, The Sun