Drownings and Near-Drowning Accidents

Water Safety Tips

5 kids jumping in Pool
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Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in all age groups. Among toddlers and preschool-age children, drowning is the second-leading cause of all deaths.

Although parents usually picture pools when they think about drowning, it is important to keep in mind that kids can drown in almost any body of water, from a bucket of water to a fishing pond. An infant can drown in just a few inches of water.

Common accident sites for drownings include:

  • Backyard pools, including above-ground and inflatable pools
  • Community pools
  • A full or partially filled bathtub
  • Hot tubs
  • Lakes
  • Streams

Of course, kids are also at big risk for drowning in the ocean, especially around rip currents.


To get an even clearer picture of your child's risk, consider these stories about drownings:

  • a 4-year-old in Ramona, California who drowned in a neighbor's backyard pool.
  • a 9-year-old in Honolulu, Hawaii who drowned while swimming in Kalihi Stream while swimming with friends.
  • a 4-year-old in Fort Bend, Texas who drowned in a backyard pond.
  • a 3-year-old in Shelby, Ohio who drowned after falling through the ice of a pond. His mother also drowned trying to save him.
  • a 21-month-old in Beaufort, South Carolina who drowned in a backyard swimming pool
  • a 3-year-old in Pike County, Georgia who drowned on the Still Branch Reservoir. His father also drowned.
  • a 1-year-old in Jacksonville, Florida who nearly drowned in a bathtub.
  • a boy in Nevada, Missouri who drowned after falling through the ice on a pond while playing with friends
  • a 17-year-old in Attleboro, Massachusetts drowned while swimming in an indoor apartment swimming pool
  • twin toddlers in Pearland, Texas drowned in a bathtub
  • a 12-year-old in Magna, Utah drowned after falling through the ice on a pool at a rec center
  • a 7-year-old in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who didn't know how to swim drowned at a birthday party at a pool at a Comfort Inn and Suites. Despite being with 15 other kids in the pool and 9 or 10 adults at the party, he was under water for up to five minutes before anyone noticed that he was drowning.
  • a 14-year-old in Grand Haven, Michigan who drowned after falling through the ice on Millhouse Bayou
  • a 15-month-old in Millville, New Jersey who drowned in a shallow goldfish pond in the backyard of an unlicensed day care center.
  • a 20-month-old in Phoenix, Arizona who drowned in the family's backyard swimming pool.
  • a 2-year-old in Royal, Arkansas who drowned in a backyard pond after getting out of his house through a doggie door.
  • a 15-month-old in Los Angeles, California who drowned in a backyard swimming pool.
  • a 3-year-old in Houston, Texas who drowned after wandering into a pool.
  • a 6-year-old who drowned on Parley Lake in Minnesota after the boat got loose from a dock with only the boy on it. He was later found in the water.
  • an 11-year-old in Aptos, California, who had been reported missing, who drowned after he fell into a swimming pool.
  • two sisters, a 2- and 4-year-old who drowned in a canal behind their home in Margate, Florida
  • a 3-year-old in San Antonio, Texas who drowned in a backyard swimming pool.
  • a 9-year-old from West Park, Florida who drowned at a pool party with a large groups of kids.
  • a 5-year-old who drowned in a neighbor's pool in Madison, Alabama.
  • a 1-year-old in Navarre, Florida who drowned in a pool after getting out of the house through a dog door
  • a 20-month-old who downed in a church baptistery in Decatur, Alabama at the Pentecostal House of Prayer where he was attending a prayer service with his family.
  • a 15-month-old who drowned in a bathtub in Fresno, California after she had been left alone for a few minutes while her mother when to get a bottle.
  • a 4-year-old who drowned after falling into a pool in Amherst, Ohio. She had been riding her bicycle around the pool at the time.
  • a 5-year-old who drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Stockton, California. He had been playing with dogs in the backyard when he apparently fell into the pool. His babysitter had been doing yard work at the time.
  • a 3-year-old who drowned in a swimming pool in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
  • a 3- and 4-year-old who drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Lancaster, New York. They were found in the pool by their aunt.
  • a 9-year-old who drowned while swimming in the ocean in Fort Lauderdale, Florida over Labor Day weekend.
  • a 2-year-old who drowned in a hot tub in Tucson, Arizona during a Labor Day gathering.
  • a 1-year-old who drowned in West Point Lake near LaGrange, Georgia.
  • a 13-year-old who could not swim drowned in a hotel swimming pool in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • a 1-year-old who drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Tinley Park, Illinois.
  • a 1-year-old who drowned in a 2-foot-deep children's swimming pool in her backyard after wandering from her home in Akron, New York.
  • an 18-month-old who drowned in a backyard pond (a water decoration) in Fairfield, Ohio.
  • an 8-month-old who drowned in a backyard swimming pool at a relative's home in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • a 5-year-old who drowned in the Comal River after he had gone missing from Hinman Island Park in New Braunfels, Texas.
  • a 9-year-old who drowned in Buck Creek, near a dam, where he had been in the water with friends in Springfield, Ohio. He couldn't swim.
  • a 12-year-old who drowned in an apartment complex pool in Arlington Heights, Illinois. She had struggled in the deep end of the pool while swimming with friends.
  • an 8-year-old who drowned in an apartment complex swimming pool in Charlotte, North Carolina, after he and his friends had climbed the pool's fence.
  • a 3-year-old who drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Putnam County, West Virginia.
  • a 6-year-old who drowned in while swimming with his family at Fugitive Beach, an abandoned rock quarry near Rolla, Missouri.
  • a 2-year-old who drowned in Yale Lake in Clark County, Indiana
  • a 4-year-old who drowned in a backyard swimming pool at a family birthday party in Smyrna, Tennessee
  • a 1-year-old who drowned in an above-ground swimming in Hastings, Florida. The ladder had been left down because the kids had been swimming earlier in the day. The toddler had gotten to the backyard pool after following his older siblings out of the front door of the house.
  • a 4-year-old who drowned in Lake Hiawatha in Blackstone, Massachusetts. The preschooler had gone missing while his parents were visiting friends in the area and was later found in the nearby lake.
  • a 7-year-old who drowned in the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon. He had been playing in shallow water with his siblings on the river's edge when he waded into deeper water and got swept away.
  • a 10-year-old who didn't know how to swim who drowned after falling off a jetty at Coney Island Beach in New York.
  • a 3-year-old who drowned on the Bitterroot River in Montana while rafting with his father.
  • a 2-year-old who drowned in a duck pond at Elk Grove Regional Park in California during a church outing.
  • A 5-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama who who drowned in a park lake on Memorial Day. He had been wading in the lake with several older boys when he fell into a drop off.
  • A 23-month-old in Cupertino, California drowned in a backyard spa at the home.
  • A 23-month-old in Redford Township near Detroit, Michigan, drowned by getting out of the house (the family was visiting friends) and climbing a ladder into an above-ground pool that only had about two feet of water in it.
  • A 12-year-old drowned in Sterlington, Louisiana while swimming with a group of children and adults. When the kids got out of the pool, one of them noticed him at the bottom of the pool.
  • A 5-year-old drowned at Clarkco State Park near Meridian, Mississippi after going missing while playing near a boat ramp at the edge of a lake.
  • A 22-month-old drowned in the San Jacinto River at Magnolia Garden Park in northeast Houston. She had been playing in some by a boat dock, while other family members were nearby in the water.
  • A 3-year-old drowned on Hatteras Island, North Carolina after he got out of a rental house and was found at the bottom of a swimming pool in the backyard.
  • A 3-year-old drowned in La Plata, Maryland during a birthday party while several other people were in the pool. When some started to get out of the pool, they noticed the child at the bottom of the deep end of the pool.
  • A 16-month-old drowned in an above-ground pool near Montgomery, Illinois.
  • A 6-year-old drowned at a country club pool while diving for toys in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • A 2-year-old drowned in a neighbor's pool when the child wandered off during a neighborhood block party in Roselle Park, New Jersey.
  • A 1-year-old drowned in the family's backyard swimming pool in Deltona, Florida.
  • A 3-year-old was in critical condition after nearly drowning in his grandfather's swimming pool in Slidell, La.
  • A 17-year-old drowned in lake at Rock Cut State Park in Illinois when a canoe he was in with friends capsized. A strong swimmer, he still didn't make it back to shore. His mother was the dispatcher that took the 911 call.
  • A 15-year-old boy drowned in an un-designated swimming area at Airport Beach Park near Waco, Texas.
  • An almost 2-year-old in Nederland, TX drowned in an above-ground pool during a kids' birthday party. Everyone had gotten out of the pool to eat in a patio area, but he slipped away and got back into the pool by himself.
  • An 8-year-old drowned in a motel pool in Rayburn Township, PA after his grandmother was distracted for a few minutes.
  • A 1-year-old in Millville, NJ drowned in a bathtub after he was left unattended.
  • A 2-year-old in Double Oak, TX drowned in a hot tub after a kids' birthday party while a lot of adults were still in the backyard.
  • A 1-year-old in Gary, IN drowned in a backyard pool.
  • A 3-year-old near Houston, TX drowned in the community pool at an apartment complex during a nighttime pool party.
  • A 3-year-old drowned in a pond in Myakka City, FL after fishing with her brother and uncle. They thought she had gone back into the house.
  • A 5-year-old drowned in Lake Tyler in Texas while his mother was fishing on a boat dock.
  • An 8-year-old drowned in a busy community pool near Indianapolis, IN
  • A 6-year-old nearly drowned in a YMCA pool near Phoenix, AZ, but was rescued.
  • A 9-year-old drowned while tubing on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.
  • A 19-month-old nearly drowned in a rain-filled hole in his backyard that was dug to hold a trampoline.

Drowning Statistics

Drowning is common. It is estimated that 10 people drown every day. Two children drown each day. And for every drowning, another four children are rescued but may still have severe injuries.

In the summer of 2013, there were at least 202 drownings in pools and spas (Memorial Day to Labor Day 2013), with most of these deaths in children who were less than 5-years-old according to media reports compiled by the USA Swimming Foundation.

That makes it important to keep water safety in mind at all times, especially if you have a pool, hot tub or pond near your home.

In addition to teaching your kids to swim and child-proofing your pool, be sure to supervise your kids when they are around water. Don't let your guard down just because your child knows how to swim or because there are other people around, such as at a pool party or at a community pool, even when a lifeguard is present.

Also, if your child is ever missing, look for him in your pool, hot tub or other nearby body of water first, as every second counts when rescuing a drowning child.

Dry Drowning

Have you ever heard of dry drowning?

Dry drowning has become more of concern for some parents since the reports in the summer of 2008 of a ten-year-old boy who was reported to have died of dry drowning more than an hour after he had gone swimming.

In dry drowning, there is a spasm of the larynx (breathing tube) that keeps inhaled water from going to the lungs. Unfortunately, this spasm can lead to high pressure and fluid leaking in the lungs.

Although the lungs don't fill up with pool water, they still fill up with fluid and cause breathing problems.

It is important to note that dry drowning likely follows some kind of submersion in the water where the child felt like he was drowning. It is probably not going to happen in a child who is simply swimming and doesn't have any kind of incident.

Parents should also keep in mind that the episode that was reported to be dry drowning in 2008 was actually a case of delayed drowning, as the child had inhaled some water while swimming.

Either way, the takeaway message is to watch your child for any symptoms, such as persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, or decreased activity, if he briefly chokes in the water or has an episode where he almost chokes but doesn't actually inhale any water.

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Article Sources

  • CDC. Unintentional Drowning Fact Sheet.
  • CPSC. Pool Safely. Preventing Drowning.
  • National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 10 Leading Causes of Unintentional Injury Deaths, United States. 2007, All Races, Both Sexes