There have been 34 more drowning incidents in 2011 in the Phoenix metropolitan area totaling 129 compared to 95 reported at this time last year, according to Valley of the Sun fire department officials.
As temperatures continue to climb in the triple-digits, East Valley residents “ﾔ both young and old “ﾔ will continue to be fixtures at public and neighborhood watering holes.
With swimming pools becoming popular attractions so rises opportunities for dangers of drowning, East Valley fire department and district officials contend.
According to the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, there have been 129 water-related incidents including drowning and near-drowning instances in Maricopa County with 39 deaths including 15 children.
The Apache Junction Fire District has reported one incident resulting in the death of a child less than 5 years old. The Queen Creek Fire Department has not reported any water-related incidents in 2011 as of Aug. 17, according to department officials.
There have been two water-related incidents reported in Pinal County including Apache Junction. Both incidents resulted in the death of two children, according to the drowning coalition.
Ed Swift, Children’s Safety Zone founder, says the spike in incidents from last year to this year reported by Valley fire departments is alarming and shows the same trend: “People believe it just won’t happen to them,” he says.
The Children’s Safety Zone “ﾔ available at childrenssafetyzone.com “ﾔ compiles, among other things, reported drowning incidents where both near-drowning and drowning incidents are reported by Arizona public safety entities that voluntarily opt to provide the information in an effort to gather data on the summertime epidemic, Mr. Swift says.
“They are up. We keep the up-to-date statistics on the website, but, boy, they are coming in really fast,” he said in an Aug. 17 phone interview of incidents reported in Arizona. “We have had eight of them in the last three days.”
The increase of more than 30 incidents on an annual basis is a disturbing trend that can be stopped, Mr. Swift says.
“It is significantly up and this is just Maricopa County,” he said noting that data from outside Maricopa County is gathered when made available. “This is the first time I have had some information from outside the region … so, numbers are up everywhere.”
Since 1998, Mr. Swift has been gathering data and ever since that time, the same excuses for not taking a proactive approach to prevent both child and adult drowning incidents has revolved around the same mantra.
“Frustratingly, they literally say the same things,” he pointed out of what he has heard in years’ past. “”ﾘThis just won’t happen to me’ … that is what everybody thinks.”
In the news
One of the most recent and publicized drowning incidents illustrating Mr. Swift’s point is the Aug. 10 drowning of an 8-month-old baby under the care of an adult in the 10000 block of East Praire Hawk Lane in rural San Tan Valley, he says.
On Aug. 10, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office dispatch received a 9-1-1 call from a caller who reported that her neighbor had rushed over with an 8-month-old baby who was not breathing and blue in color, according to Elias Johnson, PCSO spokesman.
The mother “ﾔ Patricia Schettler “ﾔ claimed at initial police interviews she had only turned away for a second to grab a towel and her daughter was immediately submerged in her infant bathtub, Mr. Johnson says.
The baby was pronounced dead 24 hours later and now the mother’s story of what happened has changed, according to Mr. Johnson.
“Here’s the thing, the official stance was she was involved in a traumatic event,” Mr. Johnson said in an Aug. 17 phone interview. “We even interview our detectives after they are in a deadly force situation and it is hard to get a clear definition of what happened.”
Ms. Schetter’s story has changed from pulling away for a second to pulling the drain, leaving the room and attempting to repair her non-functioning cell phone, Mr. Johnson says of statements made to PCSO investigators.
“She admits to pulling the draining plug, leaving the room and messing with her cell phone,” he noted. “Are we saying that she gave us false information? No. She is giving new information for what she thinks happened. We are not taking a stance on how long the child was in the water.”
Mr. Johnson says he is anticipating to receive autopsy results no later than Aug. 24.
“That will be the last piece of the puzzle,” he said of the pending autopsy results. “The county attorney will have the last say in the matter of charging.”
The ABCs of drowning prevention “ﾔ a common mantra taught among East Valley fire and ambulance entities “ﾔ hinges on adult supervision, barriers and CPR classes, public safety officials say.
Barriers created and the attending of CPR classes are good ways to be proactive, but the most effective manner to prevent child drowning remains adult supervision, they say.
Not always reported
When it comes to avoiding child drowning, adult supervision trumps all other efforts, East Valley public safety officials agree.
But something not always reported is who the other most susceptible demographic of people is, according to Tina Gerola, Apache Junction Fire District fire and life safety specialist.
“Those over the age of 65 drown more than 5 year olds who are both at-risk across the board,” she pointed out in an Aug. 17 phone interview. “We (adults) don’t make the news, but a child does.”
Intoxication of varying levels and types almost always play a role in an adult-drowning case, Ms. Gerola explains.
“Usually when an adult drowns there is usually alcohol involved or medication has been taken,” she pointed out. “Most commonly is they are intoxicated and impaired by medication.”
The ABCs of water safety
- A is for adult supervision, which is critical to preventing drownings. Children who have access to water should have eye-to-eye contact with adults, and adults should never leave children alone around water.
- B is for barriers, which include fences and door locks restricting children’s access to water, acting as a second line of defense.
- C is for classes that adults should take to learn current CPR training. Children should also have swimming lessons at the appropriate age.
Source: Water Safety Day pamphlet
- Never leave a child unsupervised in the tub
- Bath seats are not safety devices. They do not make children safer in the tub.
- Before filling the tub, make sure you have everything you might need during bathtime including towels, shampoo, telephone and clothing.
Source: Water Safety Day pamphlet
- Child drownings are swift and silent. In as little as two minutes, a child will lost consciousness in the water. Neurological injury occurs within four to six minutes.
- In Maricopa County alone, an average of four bathtub drowning incidents occur per year, with an average of one per year being fatal.
- More than half of drownings among infants (under the age of 1) occur in bathtubs; the majority occur in the absence of adult supervision.
- Females have a bathtub drowning rate twice that of males.
- In at least 29 of the 292 bathtub drowning deaths reported to CPSC between 1996 and 1999, the victims were using bath seats.
- Children can drown in an inch or two of water.
Source: Water Safety Day pamphlet
Want to know more?
For more information on water safety facts and drowning prevention efforts, events and techniques go to the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona’s website at http://www.preventdrownings.org.
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