Sunday, April 22, 2018
Public safety

East Lake firefighters promote pool safety after child nearly drowns

EAST LAKE — A 3-year-old girl and her dad, in town from New York on July 14 to visit her grandparents, were taking a dip in the community swimming pool.

Her father, however, got distracted and the girl sank to the bottom of the 5-foot-deep pool. She was underwater for almost 30 seconds, authorities said.

Her father pulled her from the pool, performed CPR and saved her life, according to East Lake Fire Rescue Chief Tom Jamison. The child's grandparents declined to talk with a reporter.

"Really, it was just a moment of inattentiveness," Jamison said.

The girl was conscious when emergency workers arrived, but faced complications soon after. She was taken by helicopter to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she made a full recovery, Jamison said.

Still, the department wanted to use the accident as a teaching opportunity. So on Tuesday afternoon, East Lake firefighters passed out pool safety information in the Brooker Creek Townhomes/Villas neighborhood, where the girl nearly drowned.

The fire department partnered with the Safe Kids Coalition and Florida Safe Pools to provide the materials. Ten firefighters went door to door to nearly 55 homes. They spoke with residents and left a bag of pool safety information on doorsteps for people who weren't home.

The bags included emergency contact information, a directory of Pinellas County swim instructors and "water-watching badges" adults are encouraged to wear to designate the pool monitor when children are swimming.

The best way to prevent pool accidents is to make sure someone always has their eye on the water, said Karen Mcculley, head of the trauma unit at All Children's Hospital.

"I can't stop car accidents, I can't stop accidents (on the playground), but we can absolutely stop accidents in the pool," she said.

Joe Fuller, the paramedic at the scene of the near-drowning, served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 20 years before joining East Lake Fire Rescue. While he has only responded to a handful of drowning calls since joining the department, he performed "a ton" of water rescues while in the Coast Guard.

"People always ask me, 'What's the best thing to do (to promote pool safety)?' And I say, 'Teach your kids how to swim.' That way they can at least get to the side of the pool," he said.

Pamela Peters, 66, has lived in the East Lake neighborhood since 2003. She recently retired as a teacher at Forest Lakes Elementary School in Oldsmar. She said she was glad to see firefighters meeting with residents.

"Even as a neighbor, it's a traumatizing thing. You always worry about children in the pool because it only takes a second for something to go wrong," she said.

Matt McKinney can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4156. Follow @Mmckinne17 on Twitter.

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