Another devastating case of Alabama accidental drowning was reported recently, this time in Birmingham and involving a 3-year-old child.
Deputies are still investigating but report that the child was visiting his grandparents when he somehow managed to get out of the house and made his way to a nearby pool without anyone noticing. Upon discovery, the child was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Our Montgomery wrongful death attorneys can think of almost nothing more absolutely heart-wrenching than these types of cases. While this incident is still being investigated, it's rare that anyone will face criminal charges in these situations. However, that does not mean that someone was not negligent in the actions leading up to the incident.
Accidental drownings are never purposeful, but they are 100 percent preventable.
As we enter the summer season, we'll sadly see more of these cases because, inevitably, more people will be in and around the pool. Children under the age of 5 represent 75 percent of all pool and spa deaths, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In fact, drowning is the No. 1 cause of injury and death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, and accounts for nearly 400 deaths annually.
These incidents are non-boating related, and often occur not far from parents or guardians.
Populations that are particularly vulnerable are African American and Hispanic children, the majority of whom cannot swim, according tot he CPSC.
Also, about 80 percent of all those who die in drowning are male.
In working to do all we can to raise awareness and prevent these tragedies, it's important for people to understand that drowning doesn't look like what you think it would look like. Many of us have this picture in our minds from television shows that it's somehow a frantic thrashing and splashing and desperate call for help. In fact, it's deceptively silent. In most cases, victims are unable to call or wave for help and instead simply slip beneath the surface.
In many instances of child drowning, adults are nearby, but they may have no idea what's happening. Here are some telltale signs that a swimmer is in distress:
- The head is low in the water and the mouth is at water level;
- The head is tilted back with the mouth open;
- Eyes appear to be glassy, unable to focus, even empty;
- Eyes are closed;
- The hair is over the eyes or forehead;
- The individual is not using his or her legs; rather, they appear vertical;
- Gasping or hyperventilation;
- Attempting to swim in a certain direction but not making any progress;
- Attempting to roll over onto the back;
- Appearing to be climbing an invisible ladder.
In preventing these scenarios from occurring in the first place, consider the following:
- Enroll your child in formal swimming lessons;
- Erect barriers around swimming pools and spas that would prevent your child from gaining access to these areas without the caregiver's knowledge;
- Remember that drowning can happen anywhere - swimming pool, bathtub, bucket. Close supervision is essential;
- If your children are boating, have them where life jackets - no exceptions.