Child drownings on pace to hit 10-year high in Florida

Dustin Hill's son has been swimming almost as long as he's been alive. He has been enrolled in classes at Seal Swim in Riverview since he was 6 months old.

His parents want him to have fun, make friends, and not become a statistic.

"He is almost 4 years old and he is swimming like an Olympian," said Hill. "We live in Apollo Beach. It is a water community. There are pools everywhere, canals; we go to the beach quite a bit."

In the last 12 days in Tampa Bay, records from the Department of Children and Families show five children under 7 have died in home swimming pools, including during birthday parties, vacations and what had been routine nights.

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"We take safety very seriously," said Jeanae Desir, an instructor at Seal Swim. "We want to make sure our students have those basic fundamental skills of swimming, that way parents are comfortable any time they are around any type of water."

Drowning is the most likely way for a child to die in Florida.

While they hit a 10-year high of 88 in 2018, 2021 is on pace to beat totals of the last three years. With five months to go, there have been 63, already close to 2020 (69) and 2019 (65).

"Some people wait till the last minute to get lessons," said Desir. "They just think oh we can get it anytime, then something traumatic happens and it is too late."

The key, instructors say, is getting kids ready to react.

"One of the more important things when it comes to the education piece of a child is swimming, and knowing what to do if you fall in," said Hill.