Lack of Supervision Factor in Indiana Child Drownings

By TOM COYNE | June 27, 2013

With summer heating up and families heading to lakes and rivers to cool off, Indiana officials are warning parents to keep a close watch on children, saying water safety requires vigilant, adult supervision.

A report released Tuesday said 11 children died from drowning in Indiana open waters in fiscal 2011, the last year for which complete statistics are available.

“In nearly all of those cases, there was some lack of supervision,” said Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services. “Children generally don’t have an awareness of the risks around water. It’s up to the adults who care for them to help keep them safe.”

Three children have been among Indiana’s 27 drowning deaths so far this year, the state Department of Natural Resources reports. The DNR counts drowning deaths in Indiana open waters, but does not include deaths in pools, DNR Division of Law Enforcement Lt. Bill Browne said.

Just last week a 5-year-old boy from northeastern Indiana was found unresponsive in Bixler Lake, 25 miles north of Fort Wayne. Conservation officers said family members noticed Dominic Slone-Lehman of Cromwell missing and he was spotted floating in about 5 feet of water. A 3-year-old boy was pulled from underwater in the same lake on Saturday and was successfully revived.

Browne said all drowning deaths involving children are heartbreaking.

“I’ve got a lot of memories that aren’t pleasant,” said Browne, who has worked for the DNR for 26 years.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drowning is the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4.

Browne said being a good swimmer isn’t enough to guard against drowning.

“Understand that some of the best swimmers in the world get tired. If they’re in water over their heads the only fool-proof plan is lifejackets,” Browne said. “Many times when we’re at drowning scenes people will tell us, ‘I don’t know what happened. They were a good swimmer.”‘

State officials also say parents can’t count on lifeguards to keep their children safe. The DNR recommends children, especially those with poor skimming skills, wear life jackets, and have a life-preserver on hand.

Other recommendations by state officials:

_ Teach children to ask permission before going near a body of water.

_ Swim in areas with lifeguards on duty.

_ Always swim with a buddy.

_Teach children never to dive into oceans, lakes or rivers because they do not know what structures are under the water’s surface.

_ DNR strongly recommends that all family members wear a life-jacket while boating on Indiana lakes and waterways.

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