Preventing the Next Accidental Drowning

By Leslie YagerScreen Shot 2014-06-26 at 7.16.18 AM

Monday’s near drowning of a five-year-old during a pool party struck home with parents and caregivers.

Every pool owner is reminded of the responsibility for their family and guests’ safety.

There are so many swimming pools in Greenwich, but it’s important to remember children can drown in just a few inches of water, so even a splash pool, hot tub or modest above ground pool comes with responsibility.

The boy in Monday’s near drowning had been at a pool party attended by five mothers and their children, a stark reminder that it is very easy to assume someone else is keeping an eye on children in the water. Even if it’s just a mom and dad taking turns supervising swim time, it’s easy to have a miscommunication about who is watching the kids. Vigilance is key, especially in a party or group situation where there can be a misunderstanding over who is watching.

It only takes moments for a child to drown.

Stew Leonard, Jr., who runs the stores that bear his name, is also a swim safety advocate, having started a water safety foundation after a drowning accident took the life of his 21-month old son in 1989.

Leonard emphasizes the importance of learning to swim. Through his foundation 126,000 kids have received swimming lessons.

Similar to the costumed cows that roam his food stores, Leonard created Stewie-the-Duck, who travels through Fairfield County to deliver water safety instruction. Stewie the Duck learns to swim is available at and is geared toward children age 2 to 6.

Greenwich residents Karen and Brian Cohn of The ZAC Foundation published The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim geared to children 5-9 after they tragically lost their son Zachary, 6, in a drowning when his arm became entrapped in the drain in the family pool. In the Cohns’ book, The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim follows a young polar bear named Zeke who is afraid of the water and refuses to swim.

Zeke learns the ABC and Ds of water safety, with the “D” standing for Drains because pool drains are dangerous to swimmers. Zachary’s favorite stuffed polar bear was the inspiration for the book.  Find the book on

Here are pool safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Always watch your children when they are in or near a pool or spa
  • Teach children basic water safety tips
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments
  • Have a portable telephone close by at all times when you or your family are using a pool or spa
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors
  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim
  • Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly
  • Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency
  • Install a four-foot or taller fence around the pool and spa and use self-closing and self-latching gates; ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools.
  • Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
  • If your house serves as a fourth side of a fence around a pool, install door alarms and always use them. For additional protection, install window guards on windows facing pools or spas.
  • Install pool and gate alarms to alert you when children go near the water
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has compliant drain covers, and ask your pool service provider if you do not know
  • Maintain pool and spa covers in good working order
  • Consider using a surface wave or underwater alarm