Dangers of pools and drowning

June 30, 2011 8:52:51 PM PDT
Drowning is the second leading cause of death of children. It can happen in a matter of seconds, but it is preventable.

Relatives of 3-year-old Joanie Logan describe her as happy, friendly, a bundle of love with a quiet wisdom and confidence well beyond her years.

On the afternoon of May 28th, that changed.

Joanie drowned at St. Albans Swim Club in Newtown Square, Delaware County.

It was crowded with lots of other kids playing, parents and certified lifeguards on deck, but no one saw the toddler under slip under the water.

Water safety experts say it happens all too often AND is preventable.

"90 percent of the drowning that occur in the United States occur when the child is supposed to be supervised, so either they are at a pool or somebody is supposed to be watching the child," water safety expert Mario Vitton said.

"All the struggles are underwater, it's not like Baywatch, and the child can't raise their arms or cry out for mommy. It's going to be swift and silent and there is not going to be a splash," Beverly Payton of the National Prevention Alliance said.

23 years ago, Beverly lost her daughter, Alicia.

Payton says her daughter was just weeks shy of her fourth birthday when she died in a neighbor's unfenced above ground swimming pool.

Since then, Payton made it her life's mission to make pools safe and parents aware that children can drown in 20 to 60 seconds.

That's the amount of time it takes to send a text or make a short phone call.

"They have a faster metabolic rate, they have a higher oxygen demand, and they don't have as much residual oxygen in their body and so you have literally seconds to get that child when they're underwater," Payton said.

Surveillance video taken last July at the Roberto Clemente Park Pool in Trenton illustrates how a drowning child could look deceptively like a child treading water.

It shows 3-year-old Darren Horton Junior bobbing up and down moments before he drowned.

The video is now part of a lawsuit filed by the toddler's parents who allege the six lifeguards on duty never noticed Darren struggling.

In the wake of the St. Albans tragedy, nearby Timberwyck Swim Club is offering safety lessons; they also added lifeguards and are asking parents to also be vigilant.

"The parents are the first line of defense and the lifeguard is the second; they're just there in case the parent isn't there," Timberwyck Swim Club President Marie Keith said.

Lifeguards tell Action News when a pool is crowded and there's a lot of splashing, it is very difficult to see what's happening under the water and keep track of every child.

In many cases, a child drowns while in the care of both parents, but each one thinks the other was watching the child.

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