Child drownings often happen quickly and quietly; in 70 percent of cases, one or both parents were nearby.
“People think drownings are noisy, that they’ll hear screams and shouts or see arms and legs thrashing,” says Sam Carolus, the program manager at Abbey’s Hope, a Minnesota-based foundation focused on safer pools and kids. “That’s not the case. They’re silent. Again and again we hear parents say, ‘I turned my back for a second.’ That’s all it takes. You can’t depend on your ears to know if someone is in trouble.”
Emmette Richardson knows this too well. In April 2014, his son drowned in their apartment pool. Richardson was there, but in the seconds it took to pull the boy from the deep end of the pool, enough time had passed that resuscitation efforts failed. Richardson, though, has a consistent reply for anyone who wants to avoid water altogether.
“Kids should not be kept away from water,” he says. “We live in Minnesota. We have to be comfortable near water. I moved to Minnesota from Liberia, where swimming isn’t a regular thing. I tell people, learn how to swim. Learn water safety.”