Expert: Introduce children to water early to prevent drowing

- The weather is heating up, and summer is right around the corner. As temperatures rise, the danger of drowning does, too.

Florida leads the nation in the number of children drowning year after year. This year, Bay Area leaders are trying to do to curb the statistic.

A family that knows the heartbreak of losing a child to drowning is joining the fight to keep children safe near the water. Their 5-year-old, Torrey Davis, Jr. spent a few unsupervised moments at an apartment complex pool on Mother's Day, 2014. 

Those moments cost him his life.

"We miss him terribly. He would've been 8-years-old now; a third grader. He had so much energy. He was full of life," Torrey's grandmother, Sheila Johnson said Wednesday. "There were other people in the pool, but they didn't notice him. So he drowned with other people around him."

The Department of Children and Families says it's a tragedy that repeats itself every year. Already, 24 children have drowned in Florida this year. The Sunshine State leads the nation by 300-percent for unintentional drowning of children under the age of five.

"As soon as the umbilical cord comes off, you should have them in the water. Keep them acquainted with the water so, at six months, they can actually learn how to swim and roll over," Seal Swim School's Melanie Stairs said Wednesday.

Stairs said swim lessons reduce the risk of drowning by 88-percent. At Seal Swim School, children practice a range of scenarios to get them comfortable with otherwise scary situations at a young age.

"If a child has never had swim lessons, they'll sink quietly to the bottom of the pool," Stairs said.

Still, she explained, adult supervision is paramount to preventing another tragedy. It's something Torrey's grandmother said haunts her family to this day.

"My grandson, he was lost in a matter of seconds," Johnson said.

DCF and the Children's Board of Hillsborough County is handing out child swim safety kits to parents.  They're also going to apartment complexes to offer free swim lessons to kids. They recommend designating a "water watcher," whose responsibility is to watch children in the water. They also say it's important to have door alarms and layers of protection to keep curious children safe.

For more information on water safety, visit www.myflfamilies.com/watersafety.

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