A matter of ‘life or death’


MIAMI COUNTY — The accidental drowning tragedy of 3-year-old Molly Murphy that happened almost two weeks ago in Covington is a reminder of why there are safety precautions that need to be followed to protect children from harm.

As reported by the United States Swim School Association (USSSA), drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., with most cases being preventable. There are 3,533 people on average who die as a result of drowning yearly, most being children under the age of four in backyard swimming pools.

“The biggest thing is to make sure if you are not there at the (backyard) pool, make sure it’s secured so they (children) can’t get in,” Miami County YMCA Aquatics Director Jared Wesbecher said. “In this situation, it is life or death.”

It is not just unsupervised backyard pools where children are at risk; even at public pools with lifeguard supervision, they are not 100 percent protected, Wesbecher said.

“Adults need to be aware that water is dangerous even at a public pool,” he said. “They need to be actively supervising their children.”

Even though lifeguards are certified and trained to scope the water for signs of danger, they can not see everything that is going on.

“Kids are very good at waiting for the lifeguard to look away to do something (potentially dangerous),” Wesbecher said.

Wesbecher also mentioned it being very common to see parents or older siblings being distracted from watching their child.

“Anymore, parents and teens take their children (to the pool), but they are reading or on their phone not paying attention,” he said.

It is not just Wesbecher stressing about parents and guardians taking full responsibility for their children.

“We are a fully staffed facility with trained lifeguards,” said Carrie Slater, assistant director of recreations at Troy Aquatic Park. “The facility is very family-friendly and take every precaution to protect children. However, the biggest responsibilities fall on the parents to make sure their children are following the rules.”

Slater said the park has been “lucky” and has not had any major mishaps happen.

With lack of supervision being what Wesbecher said is the most common flaw in drowning prevention, he also said putting “too much faith” in floatation devices is another factor.

“(Guardians) put them (children) in a life jacket and say, ‘Oh they are fine.’ Those are not life-saving devices, just a swimming tool,” Wesbecher said. “Children can still drown even while wearing personal floatation devices.”

The USSSA provided the following drowning prevention and water safety tips in a press release:

• Create a verbal cue for your toddler or child that must be given by you before he or she can enter the pool.

• Never allow your baby/toddler in the pool without a swim diaper.

* Create a process the child must go through before entering a pool such as putting on a swim diaper, a swimsuit, and applying sunscreen.

• Never use floatation devices or water wings when swimming or when teaching kids to swim.

• Children should learn to swim without goggles. Teach your children to open their eyes under water; if they fall in they can find the side of the pool or a step and get out safely.

• For very young children, practice having them put their entire face under water in the bathtub and blow bubbles to build their comfort with water.

• Create a water safety plan for your family and have water emergency drills with your kids covering how to recognize the signs of someone struggling in water and what to do in this type of emergency.

• Make sure your guests and kids’ friends know your pool rules before they go outside and get in the pool.

• Start swim lessons at six months of age and continue them year-round at a U.S. Swim School member location.

• Always make sure your children wear life jackets on boats, personal watercraft, and in open bodies of water.