MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – It’s summertime in South Florida and that means more time at the beach and in the pool. But all that time at the pool or ocean leads to a higher risk of drowning for everyone, especially children. That’s why officials are encouraging all residents, especially parents and caregivers, to take precautions to prevent drowning for young children.
At AquaChamps in Wilton Manors, four-year-old Garrett McGowan and his little sister are taking swimming lessons. The young boy told CBS 4 News his favorite activity in the pool is “walking the plank.”
Walking the plank is just one part of Garret’s swimming lesson. The four-year-old proved he can do more in the pool than just kick and paddle.
And for Garrett, his swimming skills have paid off in more ways than just play. Last year, he fell into the family swimming pool, fully clothed away from his parents’ supervision.
“I flew in mid-air to the side of the pool to save my son,” said Garrett’s Mom Kara McGowan.
But when Kara got to the pool, she found her three-year-old Garrett swimming to the wall.
“We were very lucky,” Kara said.
Garrett started swimming lessons when he was just three-months-old and his swimming coach thinks it likely saved his life. But not all children are as lucky.
Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children 14 and under in the United States. Florida has the highest numbers of drowning deaths in children nationwide; with Broward and Miami-Dade Counties at the top of the list for kids younger than four-years-old.
“I believe, just like we give our kids vitamins and medicine in order to prevent any colds or flu’s; I think swimming lessons should be just as much a part of our life because we are surrounded by water in South Florida,” said Dan Vawter, who is a co-owner at AquaChamps and a swim coach.
Vawter said putting protection in place such as fencing, door locks and alarms can help prevent a drowning before it happens. But learning to swim early, Vawter said, is key.
“It’s critical that your child learns how to swim,” said Vawter, “It’s a life saving skill.”