Trigger warning: This content may be upsetting to some.
Just days after Royal Life Saving Australia (RLSA) launched a nationwide campaign about swim safety, an 18-month-old was found face down in a backyard pool. The toddler was rushed to hospital but did not survive, adding another name to the list of toddler drownings in Australia this year.
The awful tragedy occurred in a backyard in the Perth suburb of Murdoch. The child was discovered face down in the pool while other children were believed to be swimming nearby.
The 18-month-old toddler was pulled from the water with adults performing CPR until paramedics arrived and rushed the boy to Fiona Stanley Hospital. Sadly he couldn’t be revived.
It is unknown the specific details about what has happened but the incident has left a family devastated and acts as a stark reminder for all parents as we head into summer – supervision is vital.
Toddlers most at risk of drowning
The terrible news comes just days after the RLSA’s new campaign warning parents that the risk of a child drowning triples once they turn one.
This is the age of curiosity for little ones as they learn to walk, run, jump and climb. Water is an inviting and exciting thing and many toddlers will actively seek out water, whether in the backyard or at a beach. The likelihood that a toddler drowns in a backyard pool is higher than any other age category.
Here are the key facts:
- 222 children aged one have drowned in Australia over the last 20 years
- 40% of all drownings are children under the age of five
- 27 children aged 0 to 4 years drown, on average, each year in Australia
- 51% of young children drown in swimming pools
- 77% of drowning deaths in children aged 0 to 4 are due to a fall
- Children aged 1 to 2 years old (toddler age) are at greatest risk of drowning
- 100% of all deaths are due to a lack of or lapse in adult supervision
As children become more mobile, they are curious and unpredictable. It is vital you keep constant watch and restrict access to water around the home,” Mr Scarr said.
A reminder to always watch
Behind every accidental drowning is a family left heartbroken.
In March a family lost their twin toddlers, Locklyn and Loreli, who tragically drowned in their backyard pool. The twins wandered outside and into the unfenced pool area after their great-grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s accidentally left the back door open. They are only two of the many toddlers who have lost their lives this way.
However, drownings don’t just happen in backyard pools.
In April an Easter egg hunt ended in tragedy after a little boy was involved in a creek drowning in South Australia. Another young South Australian boy died after drowning in a bathtub and earlier this year a little boy drowned in a backyard septic tank. The little boy had stepped on an unsecured lid of the tank and fell in.
Septic tanks. Bathtubs. Dams. Creeks. Pools. Oceans. Water fountains. Paddling pools. Even eskies filled with water or ice… all of these can come with the potential for drowning.
Water Safety – S*R*T*R
When around any body of water with your children, ALWAYS:
Actively supervise children around water. Limit distractions when the kids are playing in the water including mobile phones. Keep your eyes on the kids at all times.
Another important thing is to nominate who is watching the children in the pool. Often, especially at parties or gatherings, adults will all be nearby but no one is the designated “supervisor”.
Take the time to point out who is on ‘pool watching duties’ and rotate this role around. This is also the case for parents on bathtime duties – never assume the other parent is doing it. Communicate and be clear.
Restrict children’s access to water. If you do have a backyard pool, make sure you have a council-approved pool fence and a gate that self-closes. In Australia, all pools must be fenced, even small inflatable or portable backyard pools if they can be filled with 30cm or more of water.
Teach children water safety skills. You’d be surprised how many parents admit they are not confident in their children’s water skills. Plenty of swim schools offer summer courses. If money is an issue, take a look at Swim it Forward where you can apply for free swimming lessons for your kids. More information is here.
Learn how to respond in the case of an emergency. Have a read of St John’s First Aid Guide which goes through the motions of what to do if you come across an emergency water situation.
Additional pool safety tips
- Consider the colour of the swimsuit – Check out this swimsuit colour chart to see which colours are most visible in pools and lakes.
- Don’t leave toys in the pool – Children may try to grab them and fall in. Read this mum’s warning after her son nearly drowned under an inflatable toy.
- Remove any pool toys, chairs, benches, etc that could act as a ‘step’ to get into the pool or open the gate.
For more information on swim safety, check out
- Kids Helpline
- Beyond Blue
- Red Nose Grief and Loss Helpline
- Relationships Australia
- Australian Breastfeeding Association
- Sane Australia Mental Health Helpline
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