The apparent drowning deaths of two young children in the Triangle on Sunday are part of a troubling, ongoing trend in North Carolina and nationally.
Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of five nationally. In North Carolina, 138 children under the age of 18 died by unintentional drowning between 2008 and 2012, according to a 2013 report by the N.C. Division of Public Health.
On average, 29 children in North Carolina drown each year, according to the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force, a legislative study commission that makes recommendations to the General Assembly and governor on how to reduce child death.
Most of the deaths happen between April and August, peaking in June with an average of 19. The largest share of those child drownings – about 43 percent – occur at pools, followed by lakes, rivers and streams and ponds.
Between 2008 and 2011, 51 children under the age of five accounted for the majority of the 114 child drowning deaths during that time, according to the task force. Overall, 19 children, including two infants, drowned in North Carolina in 2014, the most recent numbers available.
“The drowning death of a child is always tragic,” said Kella Hatcher, the task force’s executive director. “It’s something we look at each year and pay close attention to.”
Each year, the state’s child fatality task force reviews data on drowning deaths and considers recommendations in laws and policies that could help prevent drownings. Hatcher said the key to preventing child drowning deaths is reaching out to the public to help keep kids safe.
“There are certainly laws and policies impacting water safety, but much of drowning prevention is related to education and awareness on water safety,” she said.
At least three people have drowned in the Triangle in recent days, including two girls ages 5 and 18 months.
Just before 6:30 p.m. Sunday, a 5-year-old girl was pulled from a swimming pool at the Waystone at Wakefield apartments on Common Oaks Way in North Raleigh, police reported.
Less than three hours later, around 9 p.m. in Clayton, an 18-month-old girl wandered off and ended up in the pool of a home she was visiting with her mother on Lee Road.
Investigators say both drownings were accidental.
Earlier on Sunday, just after 9:30 a.m., a bystander rescued one of two men from a capsized boat on Durham County’s Little River Lake. The Durham County Sheriff’s Office search and recovery team found the body of the second man, Carnell Bell, 55, in about 60 feet of water Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, it’s still not clear how a woman found in a neighborhood swimming pool in Morrisville on Tuesday died. Police are investigating the death of Anna Sun Clark, 66, who was found dead in the pool at the Providence Place subdivision on Mason Farm Road where she lived. Investigators have not determined if Clark – found fully clothed in the pool – was the victim of foul play or died by other circumstances.
Ways to prevent drowning
▪ Homeowners should put up a fence at least 4 feet high around all sides of their pool or spa with a locking gate that closes and latches by itself.
▪ Cover and lock pools or spas, and remove or lock ladders to above-ground pools and spas, when they are not in use.
▪ Adults and caregivers must always watch children – no matter if the children know how to swim or not – when they are near or in the water. Don’t be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others.
▪ If a child goes missing, look in the water first.
▪ Children and adults should know how to swim. In addition, adults should learn how to use rescue equipment and use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
Source: Safe Kids North Carolina