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Designated pool watchers are crucial

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Tragedy struck the West Valley last weekend when a 6-year-old boy drowned.

In the blink of an eye, a family’s life was forever changed, transformed from here and now, past and future, to “before” and “after.” We cannot imagine the pain they must be enduring, the “how?” “why?” and “what ifs?” they must constantly be wrestling with.

It happened during a pool party in an Avondale backyard. He wasn’t alone in the pool. He was surrounded by other children and even some adults. He slipped under at some point and went unnoticed until it was already too late.

The majority of child drownings don’t happen that way. They involve children who find a way into a pool when no one is looking, when no one is expecting anyone to be swimming.

Those tragedies can usually be traced back to some flaw in the pool barrier — an unlocked door, a propped-open fence.

But this tragedy illustrates that drownings can occur anytime, even when the victim is not alone.

It seems unfathomable that a bunch of kids can be swimming and not notice one of their own at the bottom of the pool, but it happens.

That is why it is crucial to have a designated pool watcher. Someone who never takes his eyes off the pool and constantly scans the bottom of it. Someone who has his phone with him should he need to call 911, but resists the urge to use it for any other reason. Someone who knows the address of the house he’s at should he need to relay that information to first responders.

These are all precautions the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona advocates for because drownings like this can and do happen. When small children slip under water, they do it quickly and silently. Their lungs fill up so fast they have no chance to cry out for help. Their hyper excited friends playing and splashing around don’t see it happen.

Pool barriers and swimming lessons are necessary to preventing child drownings, but designated pool watchers are no less crucial.

We have no doubt that every single adult at that get together would give anything to turn back time and volunteer for pool-watching duties. Our hearts break for all of them who will undoubtedly carry the guilt of an error in judgment for the rest of their lives.

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