"It only takes a few seconds for a child to slip out and get into the water," a Phoenix Fire Department captain recently explained to the press. Tragically, he wasn't speaking in a hypothetical: he was responding to the death of a 2 year old Phoenix boy who was discovered by his siblings floating in the family pool. It was one of the first child pool deaths of the Arizona pool season, it is a heart-wrenching reason that I'd like to remind you and your family about the need for rigorous pool safety.
Child drownings are called the “silent death”. You don’t hear a scream. You don’t hear a cry. You don’t hear a plea for help. Once they are in the pool and take that first mouthful of water, you hear nothing.
Swimming pool accidents are possibly the toughest cases for us to hear about, because they disproportionately affect children who are unaware or unable to protect themselves. Furthermore, we all know how exciting--if not irresistible--swimming pools are to children. They don't see pools through the lens of safety or danger; they just want to have fun.
The circumstances leading up to pool accidents are almost always (otherwise) negligible: a gate wasn't completely latched, a toddler took one step too close to the ledge of a pool, the doggy door is left unlatched, a door isn’t locked, a toy falls in that a child wants to retrieve. In the case of this particular incident, sadly, the toddler needed only to open back door. The pool had no separate fence.
At 7:30 in the morning, a family member left for work and saw the child still asleep. By 9:00am, the mother woke up when the child was found in the pool. There was nothing otherwise abnormal about that day.
By the time the paramedics arrived to perform CPR, it was too late. A child was lost. A family suffered the trauma of a missing loved one. And there will be the inescapable pain of knowing that THIS WAS COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE.
I am an attorney who handles child injury cases and supports families through these difficult times. I am also a dad to three young children.
As an attorney, I implore you to take some extra time, look at the ways a child could access your pool, and correct them so that does not happen.
As a dad, I implore you even more to do these things.
According to AZCentral.com, last year alone Valley officers responded to 119 water incidents involving children. Of those cases, 17 of the children died and 12 suffered a life-altering neurological injury. This year, there have already been 7 accidents, and the pool season has just begun.
Please take any and all precautions this season when securing your pool. Adding an extra gate or installing a new latch is a small price to pay for ensuring your pool and premises are safe for your family, visitors, and neighbors. I wish you a safe swimming season ahead.