TAMPA, Fla. - More children are losing their lives by drowning in Florida than before, following a record high report from the state.
Monday, the Florida Department of Children and Families reported 98 drowning in 2021, up from 69 deaths reported in 2020.
There were 65 drownings in 2019 and 88 deaths in 2018.
It’s concerning for swim safety advocates since drowning is the second leading cause of death for all children in the U.S. It hits home for parents like Shannon Seal, a swimming safety instructor and owner of Seal Swim School in Tampa Bay.
"It breaks my heart. I take it quite personally. Unfortunately, we can't reach every single person as much as I would like to," said Seal.
She said she believes the jump in deaths could be tied to the pandemic.
"I think a lot of it has to do with more people are staying home. And unfortunately, when you stay at home, just the accidents that could potentially occur," said Seal.
Swim safety advocates say it only takes a second for water to take a life. About 66% of last year’s deaths were kids age 3 and younger, and one in four of the 2021 drownings were in the Tampa Bay area.
"It's very concerning, and I think it's definitely something that needs to be addressed, especially before the warm months start to come back and once spring hits and the pools are more readily open," said Seal.
Prevention is critical, so swim safety instructors said parents should sign up for swim classes, put in a pool fence and never take their eyes of their kids.
"I'd also encourage them to get their CPR certification, be prepared in case of an emergency and just constantly watch your children around water," said Seal.
Safety advocates stress that drownings can happen anywhere, in a bathtub, a pool or wherever. Since there’s a lot of water in Florida, instructors said knowing how to swim is an important lifesaving skill for kids.