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Greensboro, North Carolina

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Pierce Egerton
Pierce Egerton
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N.C. toddler’s tragic drowning is a reminder of ever-present dangers

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It wasn’t outwardly apparent that something was wrong on the little street called Rockwood Drive in Rowan County, until a sheriff’s car responded to a 911 call at 1:25 Tuesday afternoon. A 1-year-old boy had been missing for an undetermined time.

Just minutes later, a neighbor found the child in an ornamental cement fountain in a yard a few houses away from his home, according to the report by The Salisbury Post. That person performed CPR on the child, with 911 communicators giving instructions.

Emergency services personnel arrived and took over efforts to save the boy, but could not. During the minutes that the brief search and attempted rescue progressed, about a dozen emergency vehicles and cars converged on the gravel street and surrounding lawns.

Minutes. That describes the nature of most of the drowning deaths of infants and toddling children. In the time it takes to answer the phone, to step to a linen closet for a towel, to check something cooking on the stove, a child’s life can slip away – under the surface of the water in a bath, out the door to go exploring.

Image by Sissel Karlsen/Flickr

Bathtubs and sinks pose a dangerous water hazard. A child left unattended even momentarily can drown in just an inch or two of water.

The death of this child, a 13-month-old whose family lives near Faith, a little town of about 800 people just south of Salisbury, North Carolina, was ruled an accident in the investigation that followed.

Every year as summer begins, we are cautioned about the dangers of drowning accidents in the vacation season: in pools, in lakes and ponds, at the beach. But dangers are all around, year-round. The threat can come from what would appear to be a most unthreatening source – a bucket, an aquarium, or in this case, a seemingly harmless lawn decoration.

A child can drown in as little as an inch or two of water. The deaths are swift and silent; a child will lose consciousness within two minutes of submersion, and can suffer irreversible brain damage within four to six minutes.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these tips to protect young children from drowning:

  • Never leave a bucket containing even a small amount of liquid unattended. When finished using a bucket, always empty it immediately.
  • Store buckets where young children cannot reach them. Buckets, accessible to children, that are left outside to collect rainwater are a hazard.

  • Always secure safety covers and barriers to prevent children from gaining access to spas or hot tubs when not in use. Some non-rigid covers, such as solar covers, can allow a small child to slip in the water and the cover would appear to still be in place.
  • Keep the toilet lid down to prevent access to the water and consider using a toilet clip to stop young children from opening the lids.

Image by Egerton Law

  • Consider placing a latch on the bathroom door out of reach of young children.
  • Never leave a baby alone in a bathtub for even a second. Always keep the baby in arm's reach. Don't leave a baby in the care of another young child. Never leave to answer the phone, answer the door, to get a towel or for any other reason. If you must leave, take the baby with you.
  • A baby bath seat is not a substitute for supervision. A bath seat is a bathing aid, not a safety device. Babies have slipped or climbed out of bath seats and drowned.
  • Never use a baby bath seat in a non-skid, slip-resistant bathtub because the suction cups will not adhere to the bathtub surface or can detach unexpectedly.
  • Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) – it can be a lifesaver when seconds count.