SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — For some, it may be hard to imagine how a child can drown when they are surrounded by family and friends, but data shows it’s all too common.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a warning last week about an increased risk of drownings amid COVID-19 as kids are spending more time at home with parents and caregivers distracted by work and other responsibilities.
Drowning is the leading cause of death for kids younger than five, and the third leading cause of death for kids ages 5-19. Many are surprised to learn that most kids in that older group were being supervised when they drowned.
“Sadly,(it) is not rare,” said Dr. Ben Hoffman, the AAP spokesperson on injury and drowning.
He stresses, unlike in the movies, drowning is quick and silent, which is why adult supervision alone may not be enough.
“That supervision is often not perfect and even a momentary lapse can lead to horrible events like this,” he said.
Hoffman points to Monday’s drowning at Sacramento’s Discovery Park as an all too common example of how a child can drown while surrounded by adults.
The AAP cites research that found 9 out of 10 drowning deaths for children younger than 14 happened while the child was being supervised.
“In the study of 496 drowning deaths that were reviewed by state child death review teams, only 10% were completely unsupervised at the time of the drowning. Most of the children (68%) were expected to have been in or near the water just before the drowning incident,” Hoffman said.
In natural water settings, like the American River, the group found 6 out of 10 fatal drownings happened in the presence of an adult.
“I can imagine, like yesterday with 1,000 people there, it’s really hard to maintain that focus,” Hoffman said.
He notes the crowded waterfront on Memorial Day may have made it impossible to notice the boy slip under, which is why the AAP stresses using multiple layers of protection, including constant supervision combined with a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, swim lessons and CPR training for adults.
That’s what ultimately saved a two-year-old Michigan boy who nearly drowned in a hotel pool while surrounded by family and friends early this year. Surveillance video, posted by police in Michigan, shows just how quickly and silently a child can drown.
The video shows him silently slipping under the surface. By the time someone jumped in to grab him, the boy was barely visible. Two off-duty nurses at the pool were able to save him with CPR.