In the midst of nationwide aquatic budget cutting,
drownings are on a dramatic upswing this summer. Data is
still being compiled, but researchers say the most likely
victims are still toddlers and young people.
U.S. doctors say children under age 5 and those between
ages 15 and 24 have the highest drowning rates, according
to recent reports. In Texas, as of mid July, at least 60
children had drowned. The state only began tracking the
numbers in 2005, but if that pace continues, it will
surpass last year’s record of 82 child drowning
deaths. The majority of the state’s recent
drowning victims have been unsupervised toddlers.
“We’re having a rough time watching
little kids drown for no reason other than lack of adult
supervision,” said Jeremy Smith, president of the
Independent Pool & Spa Service
Association’s Mid Cities DFW Chapter.
By the end of July, a significant number of drowning
incidents had also occurred in Arizona and Southern
California’s Inland Empire region. Riverside
County, east of Los Angeles reported 41 drowning incidents
with six fatalities — five children and one adult
— and Maricopa County reported that nine children
under age 12 had drowned.
“It has been very alarming for us,”
said Olivia Ballesteros, director of Riverside County
Injury Prevention Services.
In response her agency and others have ramped-up water
Likewise, IPSSA has called for stronger water safety
education. In Texas, the organization has partnered with
the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to sponsor
events and produce educational materials including mock
drownings, bilingual presentations, safety brochures and
“We encourage every layer of protection you can
imagine, [and] we encourage swim lessons as soon as
possible,” said Smith, adding, “I want to
see the pool industry move to [be] a proactive water safety
Although experts can’t say for sure what may be
causing the increased number of drownings — it may
be combination of factors — several suggest that
the economy may have something to do with it.
“People may be staying at home more, utilizing
home or community pools more, so bather load could be up.
Also, the financial challenges at different government
agencies mean staffing may be at a lower level,”
said Johnny Johnson, president of the NDPA and the Swim for
Life Foundation, and director of the Blue Buoy Swim School
in Tustin, Calif.
Johnson agrees that final numbers for 2009 will reveal a
marked increase in drowning incidents and the economy could
be a contributing factor in a number of ways, but adds,
“in the end, it still comes down to underlying
causes. They’re still the same.”