This weekend in Colorado two men drowned and a young boy came close to being the third drowning victim. Rescue crews searched Sunday for a 31-year-old man who fell into the Colorado River near the State Bridge area in Eagle County after the Sheriff’s Office received a call from someone who heard the man fall, police say. And in Mesa County, the Coroner’s Office has identified the 17-year-old who drowned Saturday while fishing in a private pond south of Grand Junction. The teenager reportedly entered the water to retrieve a fishing pole, surfaced one time and was not seen again by friends. Divers recovered his body 22 feet below the surface of the pond.
And a six-year-old boy nearly drowned to death Sunday afternoon at Chatfield State Park in Littleton, according to Park Rangers. The boy was out swimming when he lost his floatation device. His father immediately rushed into the water to rescue him.
The three events illustrate the seriousness of the problem of water safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning is the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 years. And for every child who dies from drowning, another four received emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) in the United States, averaging ten deaths per day. An additional 496 people died from drowning in boating-related incidents.
More than 55% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments require hospitalization or transfer for higher levels of care (compared to a hospitalization rate of 3-5% for all unintentional injuries). These injuries can be severe – nonfatal drownings can cause brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).
To help prevent water-related injuries, the CDC recommends:
- Supervision when in or around the Water. Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times. Adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children.
- Buddy System. Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards whenever possible.
- Seizure Disorder Safety. If you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a bath tub for bathing.
- Learn to Swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing, to prevent unsupervised access are necessary.
- Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone’s life.
- Do Not Use Air-Filled or Foam Toys. Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
- Avoid Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.