TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather.
Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Crime & Courts

Pool safety a concern after local death, near-drownings

By
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:12 PM
TAMPA -

Five children during the past five days have drowned or nearly drowned across the Tampa area.

Some of the incidents were at pool parties with adults nearby. Others occurred when parents inside their homes lost track of their children for a few minutes and found them floating in the pool.

So many cases over such a short period has alarmed pool safety advocates.

"This just breaks my heart," said Jenna DeVito-Roisum, president of Mason's Gift, a nonprofit organization focused on preventing child drowning deaths.

DeVito-Roisum was on an out-of-state trip last week and said when she returned to Florida, she was surprised to learn of the back-to-back incidents in Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties.

"I'm not sure why there were so many in such a short period," DeVito-Roisum said.

It could be attributed to warm weather, people on vacation, graduation parties or this past weekend's Father's Day celebrations, she said.

"All of the above, perhaps," said DeVito-Roisum, who founded her organization after her 2-year-old son, Mason, drowned in the family's pool in 2009.

"I truly wish I knew the answer to why so many have occurred in such a short period, because then we would know how to prevent it in the future."

Drowning deaths in swimming pools spike dramatically during the summer months, law enforcement officials said.

"We do love the water here," said Donna Wood, spokeswoman for the Polk County sheriff's office, which investigated three near-drowning incidents over the weekend. "And this is obviously a very serious reminder of how careful families must be around the water."

The rash of incidents leading up to Father's Day started Thursday in Plant City.

Deputies were called to 8839 S. County Line Road after a 16-month old boy was found floating face-down in the family's above-ground pool.

Kathen Mayo was taken to a local hospital where he died. Kathen's parents were preparing dinner when they noticed he was missing, Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said. The drowning has been ruled an accident.

But it was in Polk County where the bulk of incidents occurred during the weekend.

On Saturday, a 5-year-old girl from Okeechobee was visiting relatives in Davenport when she was found at the bottom of a pool. Several family members, children and adults, were in the pool with her.

"It can happen so quickly," Wood said. "If everybody's playing, it's easy to get distracted."

The girl was pulled from the water, given CPR and revived. She was released Thursday from an Orlando hospital.

About an hour after that incident, deputies were called to a Lakeland house where a 2-year-old boy was found in an above-ground pool during another child's birthday party. The boy had wandered away from his parents and couldn't be found for 15 minutes, deputies said.

Two people performed CPR on the boy, who was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. He was listed in critical condition Monday, Wood said.

Mandy Fields, owner of the house where the birthday party was held, said people had become frantic when they couldn't see "where the baby was."

"Everything happened so quick," Fields said. "Everybody just started looking, running around the yard."

The third incident in Polk occurred Sunday morning in Davenport. A 21-month-old boy wandered to his family's pool after his 3-year-old sibling opened the back door of the house, deputies said.

The boy's mother pulled him out of the water and gave him CPR. Paramedics managed to stabilize the child. He was released from the hospital on Monday.

The fifth near-drowning case during the weekend was in Pasco County. Unlike the others, this one was a criminal investigation.

Deputies said Kevin Geddes, 40, was drunk and swinging a 14-month-old boy near a canal in New Port Richey.

They both fell in the canal and Geddes refused help from others nearby, even when it appeared the boy was drowning, deputies said. A witness jumped into the canal and gave the child CPR. Geddes has been charged with aggravated child abuse.

From January to October last year, 55 children in Florida died in swimming pools, the highest number in the nation, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Texas was second with 41 drowning deaths, California was third with 39 and Arizona was fourth with 33.

Pool safety deaths

Stay within arm’s reach of your child at all times in and around the pool.

Assign a "water watcher," one or more adults whose responsibility is to keep track of children in and near pools.

Keep your eyes on very young children at all times.

Fence your pool: Use a 4-foot or taller fence with self-closing or self-latching gates.

Make sure your children take swimming lessons.

Install pool and gate alarms.

Learn CPR.

Source: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

Pool safety resources

For information on pool safety and drowning prevention, visit these websites:

www.poolsafety.gov

www.cdc.gov/safechild

www.masonsgift.org


rreyes@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7920

Subscribe to The Tampa Tribune

Comments