Memphis child drownings prompt community demands for pool safety - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis child drownings prompt community demands for pool safety

Use a 'spaghetti noodle' to help someone who's struggling. (Source: WMC Action News 5) Use a 'spaghetti noodle' to help someone who's struggling. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

Within a one week span this month, two children drowned in Memphis swimming pools. Perhaps pool safety education could have saved their lives. 

Accidental drowning is the number one killer of children ages one to four. In fact, swimming pools are ten times more likely to kill a child than a gun. 

The Mid-South has already seen the deadly consequences. 

A teenager died after he and his friends jumped the fence to swim at a closed community center pool in South Memphis.

A 5-year-old-- who family members thought was being watched by a 12-year-old-- drowned in the pool at Moriah Trails apartments

In both cases, neither of the victims knew how to swim. 

Juan Matamoros is a certified life guard at the YMCA. 

Matamoros said the best way to prevent drowning, especially if you can not swim, is to float. 

"When we float, we teach them to keep their head up," said Matamoros. "They can float on their back, they can rest, catch their breath and wait on help that way."

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages one to four, and the second leading cause of accidental death in children one to 14. 

What is even more alarming, according to a Safe Kids Worldwide report, is 88 percent of kids who drown do so under adult supervision. 

Swim instructors at the YMCA teach a universal swim safety tip: REACH or THROW...DON'T GO!

"Meaning never jump in the water after someone if they are drowning or expected of drowning," said Matamoros. "Reasons why? They might pull you in or pull you under water and then you're both in trouble."

So if you can't jump in to save a life, what do you do?

"You throw a raft, a flotation device, a stick, a rope, anything you can find, you throw it in there for them to hold on to," explained Matamoros. 

Spaghetti noodles are common pool toys and can be found at practically any dollar store. When used properly, pool toys can be used to pull someone to safety.

"Never reach in standing up, because somebody is going to pull you in," said Matamoros. "It's very important when you're going to pull someone in that we teach people to get down low and then reach in."

Lifeguards said even the most experienced swimmers should never swim alone because they are still at risk. 

"Something can go wrong at any point. It can be unexpected. You can get a cramp and then start going down," said Matamoros. 

It sounds cliche, but seconds matter, especially in a drowning, so identifying a victim and getting them out right away could be the difference between life and death. 

Matamoros said if you find yourself going under, do your best to stay calm and remember to float. 

"Floating on your back gets your head above the water and you can breathe and relax and you can even swim from there to safety or you can call for help," said Matamoros. 

Safekids Worldwide suggests introducing your children to water as early as six months old to help them get comfortable. 

Free swim lessons are available at a number of community pools in the greater Memphis area, depending on funding. 

The YMCA offers income-based swim lessons year round.

Pool safety resources:

SafeKidsWorldWide

YMCA

Make A Splash Mid-South

The Pool School

Salvation Army Kroc Center 

Memphis Jewish Community Center 

The Dive Shop

Hickory Hill Aquatic Center

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