Orange County firefighter paramedics responded to one drowning and six near-drownings in less than 24 hours between early Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27. This was an extremely busy and tragic weekend for drownings in the region.
The near drownings involved four girls, ages 1 to 3; and two boys, ages 2 and 3. According to national drowning statistics, children ages 1 – 4 years old make up the bulk of drowning incidents and most of them are preventable drownings. The fatality was an 85 year old woman who was found in a swimming pool at her home. It is believed that a heart attack or stroke was the catalyst for the drowning.
Our colleagues at Orange County Fire Authority concede to the fact that this was the most active period they have seen in terms of drownings. In 2016, there were a total of 110 incidents. There were 41 drownings and 69 near drownings. Fifty-one incidents occurred in swimming pools, 34 in the ocean or bay, 12 in spas and 12 in bathtubs, according to OCFA data.
On Saturday, the first call came at 12:50 p.m., after a three-year-old girl fell into a spa at a residence on Alisal Court in Aliso Viejo.
Someone at the home, the site of a birthday party, had spotted the girl at the bottom of a spa and pulled her from the water. A physician at the home performed CPR, he added. The girl was taken to a local hospital.
This one (above) raises questions and the most important question is why there was no private lifeguard at this party? Where were the parents during this party and why were they not within arms reach of the girl? As tragic as this is, the drowning could have been prevented had there been a trained and dedicated lifeguard watching the pool and spa.
One of the problems we have seen is that no matter how much outreach we do, still not enough people know we exist to provide a lifesaving service for private pool parties. How many kids could be saved from drowning if lifeguards were present at pool parties or family gatherings? Quite a few!
The next call came in at 3 p.m. in Laguna Niguel when a two-year-old boy was found face-down in a community pool at the Windridge Apartment complex in the 24500 block of Hidden Hills Drive. The boy was taken to a local hospital.
He was swimming with his siblings and had a life vest on. At some point, he took it off to eat lunch and the father turned away briefly. He was alerted by someone that his child was face-down in the water.
The third incident was reported when a two-year-old girl was pulled from a spa in the 50 block of Seasons in Irvine.
When firefighter paramedics responded a bystander had performed CPR. The parents were in the general area. When firefighters arrived, the girl was breathing on her own but she was taken to CHOC Children’s Hospital.
The fourth call came in at 5:30 p.m. when a three-year-old boy was found in a community pool in a new development near Catalina and Alton Drive in Lake Forest.
The boy was swimming in the pool with a floating device with his siblings.
At some point he left the pool to go to the bathroom. when he got back his flotation device was off and he jumped back into the pool where his siblings were still playing. The child was found underneath the water’s surface.
When firefighter/paramedics arrived, he had been pulled out but was lethargic and was taken to the hospital.
The next batch of calls (above) were the ones that that really had us fuming. We see and hear this all the time with children. A major cause of drownings at pool parties or gatherings is when children remove flotation devices to either eat, use the restroom or want to play outside of the pool and then return to the pool without the devices.
Children that can’t swim must wear these devices but often times they don’t realize that it is these flotation devices that allow them to swim. They develop a mind set that they can just jump in and swim. Parents are responsible for ensuring their children are wearing these devices before entering the pool. We have often heard that that kids are just too fast but that is an excuse from a parent, a nanny or a guardian that was simply not mindful of the kids. Kids need constant supervision, period!
At 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, paramedics assisted OC Lifeguards at Salt Creek Beach. A one-year-old girl was knocked down by a wave. She was lethargic and was taken to Mission Hospital.
Just an hour later, paramedics were called to a community pool in the 2400 block of Irvine Boulevard in Tustin after a two-year-old girl was found under water.
A bystander saw the girl and pulled her from the pool.
He did a few compressions and the girl started spitting up water.
The girl was taken to CHOC by paramedics.
The beach has it own set of hazards and for children it can be ocean conditions such as rip currents or in the above case, a wave. We always teach young children to never turn their backs on waves. The above illustrates what can happen if they do.
This was indeed a busy weekend for OCFA paramedics and we are sure one they would rather not see again. The bottom line is that drownings are preventable but many are not getting the message in regards to pool safety. We could stand in a high place yelling at the top of our lungs but still people will not hear the message. This is the most frustrating part for those of us who spend a lot of time promoting drowning prevention and awareness.