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Water safety advocates sound alarm on rise in child drowning deaths in the Valley

This year’s report reveals 12 drowning deaths in children five and under, as of Aug. 5, in both Maricopa and Pinal counties.

MESA, Ariz. — August marks Drowning Impact Awareness month. It’s a time where many in our community wear purple ribbons to remember the children who have drowned, while showing a commitment to be water safe.

But water safety advocates are speaking out this year.

2020 has been a deadly one so far for child drownings in the Valley. Water safety advocate Melissa Sutton said she is very concerned.

“It’s just devastating for us to see the numbers on the rise that they are,” Sutton said.

This year’s report reveals 12 drowning deaths in children five and under, as of Aug. 5, in both Maricopa and Pinal counties.

That’s more than double the total of five pediatric drowning deaths in all of last year, all according to the Children Safety Zone website.

“One loss is too many for us," Sutton said. "We work so hard and tirelessly and we have for over 30 years.”

Sutton, president of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, blames the rise in deaths on pandemic challenges. When schools shut down in March, so did a big chunk of local water safety messaging.

“We partner with so many agencies throughout the Valley and the state like fire departments and hospitals who are able to get into schools and deliver water safety messaging," she said. 

"This completely ended in March and we haven’t been able to get back since.”

Free community awareness events have closed too. And at home, families can be more distracted balancing work and childcare.

“In that slight, slight moment we have that lapse in supervision we know can happen," Sutton said. "It’s so important we have those barriers in place.”

Sutton, stresses the ABC’s of Water Safety wherever she can.

  1. Adult supervision
  2. Barriers – between children and water
  3. Classes – CPR for adults and swim lessons for children

Another safety measure is Coast Guard approved life jackets when necessary. 

August is one of the busiest months for child drownings in Arizona.