ARIZONA, USA — A series of drownings in the last couple of weeks is raising concerns for drowning prevention advocates that this summer could be a deadly one.
As people celebrated the Fourth of July weekend, fire officials stayed busy responding to at least three drowning calls in the Valley.
On Saturday, Scottsdale firefighters responded to McDowell Road and 78th street, where a two-year-old girl nearly drowned. Crews were able to get her pulse back as she was being taken to a hospital.
In Glendale, a three-year-old boy died after being pulled from a backyard pool when he was with his family at a party on Sunday. Authorities there said the child somehow bypassed the pool that was in a locked and fenced area.
Later that evening, a newborn baby girl was sent to the hospital and is in extremely critical condition after nearly drowning at a Phoenix hotel bathtub.
Officials said the girl’s father told them he briefly stepped away while bathing her and found her underwater when he returned.
Although officials have not released all the details surrounding these incidents as they are still investigating, the current trend in drownings is a cause for concern, said Lori Schmidt, the President of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona.
“The number of drownings that we are seeing kind of heightens us and gets us on alert. We are really concerned at the fact that people are maybe being a little bit more complacent than they should be,” she said.
In 2019, the Child Safety Zone reported 36 drowning deaths in Maricopa and Pinal county. Out of those incidents, five deaths were children five years and younger.
In 2020, the non-profit reported an increase to 47 drowning deaths, resulting in 14 deaths among children younger than five years old.
To prevent future accidents, Schmidt says the first recommendation when having fun on the water with children is always being vigilant. If at a party, assigning an adult to supervise and rotating that person every 20 minutes can help maintain the safety of all.
“Keeping your eyes on the kids is hard to do when there is a party because we are distracted, we are having a good time, but you’ve got to keep those layers of protection in place,” Schmidt said.
It’s also important to have a barrier around the pool and a locked gate. Making sure there are no objects around the fence that would help a child gain access to an unsupervised pool is key.
For inexperienced swimmers, wearing a life-saving device like a life vest is a must. Floaties don’t count as Schmidt said. Those are just toys.
The age group at highest risk of drowning are children aged one to four, accounting for 58% of the deaths in 2014, according to the Child Fatality Review.
A key factor to avoid drowning is knowing how to swim, children can begin to learn as young as one year old. The Arizona Department of Health Services has a list of cities that provide free or reduced-priced swimming lessons.
“If we keep going the way we’ve been going the last couple of weeks we could really have a bad summer,” Schmidt said.
Arizona has seen its fair share of severe weather. Here is a compilation of videos from various storms across the Grand Canyon state.