Drowning has become the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, with an estimated 236 000 annual drowning deaths recorded worldwide.
This, according to the World Heath Organisation, and in South Africa, drowning ranks 35th on the list of most common causes of death, where 29% of fatal drownings are children under 14 years of age, with the highest drowning rate occurring with children below the age of five years.
Nearly two years ago, Rachel Berry from Hout Bay, experienced the nightmare herself when her daughter drowned at a friend’s house, while away on holiday.
Little Carla, only four years old at the time, woke up on a Saturday morning after hearing the water splashing.
“She was bubbly and always smiling from ear to ear, ready to take on whatever challenge. That morning, she was quite calm and did not rush to the pool like everyone else,” Ms Berry said.
Just before lunch, everybody went inside for a quick bite and soon it was discovered that Carla had returned to the pool unnoticed, all on her own.
The screams of another child who had found the lifeless body of Carla alerted the rest, who pulled her body from the water to start CPR.
“At first, when I heard, I didn’t want to run out and see it, but I had to. I arrived there and I saw my brother pulling her from the water, but she was completely limp,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
After a number of attempts by the family and even paramedics, Carla was rushed to hospital and later died.
“It was supposed to be a happy holiday which quickly turned into one of my worst nightmares. I will never know why she went back or what she went back for,” Ms Berry said.
She added that Carla had been taught about the dangers of the water and also had the arm bands needed, but had removed them when they had lunch.
With school holidays in full swing, safety around the pool should remain a top priority for any parent, despite it being winter.
Crisis support and response company, CrisisOnCall provides some advice to keep children safe around the water while enjoying their school holidays.
CrisisOnCall CEO, Hendrik Neethling, said accidents also happened when children played on the pool covers used in winter. These protective shields can often break causing an unsuspecting child to go into a panic when entering the water, he warned.
“The school holidays for many parents can be a bit stressful with trying to balance work from home while keeping an eye on the children. Accidents happen when we have too much on our plate.
“Take the necessary time off while school holidays are here or find some extra support to keep an extra eye on the children,” he suggested.
“If you have a pool at home, now is the time to implement the necessary safety measures like perimeter fencing and a secure pool cover.”
Mr Neethling encouraged parents and pool owners to limit the access to their pool areas during the winter months, saying it “remains one of the best forms of prevention against drowning”.
“This can be in the form of secure fencing around the water body, secure covers over pools and close supervision while children are playing near the pool area. It is also important to establish rules that prevent children from playing on top of the pool cover which can often be quite an enjoyable activity for them, unfortunately this is dangerous,” Mr Neethling said.
“It is also the time to check and ensure that all these protective barriers are sufficient and free of tears.”
He also that one of the best things to do is to ensure that children are safe while playing around the pool would be to increase “your preparation in case of an emergency”.
“Accidents happen so quickly. It therefore helps to have an emergency or medical response service on speed dial. A rapid response service can mean the difference between a fatality and a life saved,” he said.