Experts talk pool safety after near drowning at apartment in Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In the wake of a near drowning in Winston-Salem Thursday, formal swim lessons and keeping a watchful eye on kids are being touted as the best ways to prevent trouble at the pool.

Police were called to the Salem Crest Apartments Thursday on reports of a drowned boy. He was not breathing when they arrived.

Police said the boy was found lying on the bottom of the pool and had to be pulled to the surface by someone who ran over to help.

The 9-year old is listed in serious condition at the hospital. A police officer at the scene told FOX8 that the boy was on life support just a few hours after being rushed to the hospital.

Aquatics experts across Winston-Salem said parents can avoid a similar incident with the help of some safety measures.

“That’s just a tragic accident and what parents need to understand is that we just can’t let our kids go to swimming pools and not be watched,” said Dick Butler, the supervisor in charge of eight city pools in Winston-Salem.

Heather West of the YWCA agrees and said parents can’t distract themselves at the pool because a drowning can happen in just 20 seconds.

“Sometimes they cough and gag, but most of the time a child is playing one minute, then the water goes over their head and they can’t resurface,” said West. “They may come up for one more gasp of air, but they can’t yell and scream for help.”

Another way to avoid trouble is to keep poor swimmers in life jackets. Butler suggests using U.S. Coast Guard approved vests that snap into place and can’t fall off or pop up like inflatable flotation devices.

At city pools, a swim test is required to enter the water without a life jacket. It consists of a 25-yard swim and a minute of treading water.

Finally, swim lessons taught by professionals can help reduce the chances of drowning by 88 percent, according to the USA Swimming Foundation.

The organization also said that about 60 percent of Latino children and 70 percent of African American kids can’t swim.

Annette Scippio sees her two grandchildren making strides in the pool with the help of swim lessons, but said forcing them wear life jackets at the pool is something she’s comfortable with.

“Part of the drowning experience is because of fear, you panic in the water when you don’t know how to allow your body to be buoyant and float to the top,”said Scippio. “You’re fighting the water and that’s when so many accidents happen.”

There is still time to sign children up for swim lessons this summer. The next city class sign-up is July 19 and at the YWCA. The next lesson cycle begins August 4.

Admission to city of Winston-Salem city pools is $1 for the rest of the summer.

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