After the “polar vortex” that kept Ohio and a large swath of the nation in a deep freeze this past winter, summer is finally drawing near. With the approach of summer comes the inevitable back-yard barbecues and swimming pool parties. Swimming pools, while both inviting and refreshing on a hot summer’s day, present a significant risk of drowning injury and death for children. This is reflected by the media stories that inevitably are presented on local television newscasts throughout the summer.
Last June, TV Station WBNS in Columbus reported on a two-year-old boy found unresponsive in a backyard pool. Somehow, the child got out of the house and climbed into the pool without anyone noticing. The child died about an hour after being hospitalized. Drownings can occur even in supposedly supervised pools. In July 2013, according to WEWS-TV of Cleveland, police began an investigation into just how a nine-year-old boy could drown at a YMCA pool with three lifeguards on duty! According to reports, after discovering a boy "missing," a search revealed the child at the bottom of the deep end of the pool.
Unfortunately, in 2013, Ohio was ranked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being among the top five states in media reported drowning deaths involving children younger than 15.
Statistics show that young children are highly vulnerable to drowning accidents. Last year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 202 children between the ages of 1 and 14 drowned in a swimming pool or spa and, of those who drowned, 143 were children younger than the age of 5. Indeed, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children 1 to 4 years of age.
The CDC says that the factors commonly leading to the drowning of a child are:
- A lack of swimming ability
- The lack of barriers to prevent the child from getting to a pool
- A lack of supervision by adults
According to the CDC, near-drowning injuries often cause severe personal injury to the victim. For example, a near-drowning victim can sustain brain damage which causes memory loss and learning disability. In a worst case scenario, a near-drowning injury can result in a “permanent loss of basic functioning (for example, permanent vegetative state).”
Steps that can be taken to make pools safer
Risks posed by residential swimming pools and spas are largely preventable. The Ohio Department of Public Safety and the CDC offer the following recommendations as to how to reduce pool fatalities and near-drownings:
- Install four-sided fencing around pools to keep children out when they are not being supervised and aren’t supposed to be swimming.
- Carefully supervise young children.
- Provide water safety training for children and adults.
- Train parents in CPR and bystander first aid.
- Clear the pool area of toys, floats and balls that could tempt a child.
Sadly, not all homeowners who have backyard swimming pools take adequate precautions to prevent those pools from turning into the scene of a preventable tragedy.
Seeking compensation for pool injury or death
For survivors of near-drowning incidents, medical expenses can be astronomical as can rehabilitation costs. If someone in your family has sustained serious injury or death due to a drowning or near-drowning caused by the neglect of a third party, you should contact an attorney. A law firm experienced in handling this type of case can investigate the facts and help you determine what the most viable options are for seeking monetary compensation under Ohio law.