98 children drowned in Florida in 2021, a record number, state data shows
TAMPA (WFLA) – New data from the state shows child drowning reached an all-time high in Florida last year with 98 child deaths in 2021.
One in four of those deaths have been in the Tampa Bay area, so what’s behind the peak and how can it be stopped?
In 2019, there were 65 child drowning deaths in Florida, and 69 drowning deaths occurred in 2020.
But last year we lost almost 100 children.
According to new data from Florida Department of Children and Families, 98 people, aged 18 and under, drowned in 2021.
“The increase is incredibly alarming,” said Cassie McGovern, a member of the Florida Child Abuse Death Review Committee, a state committee that reviews every death.
McGovern said that in many cases the child escaped the house and gained access to a body of water. A river, a canal, even a very small inflatable swimming pool, can quickly come to life.
“When you look at the data… it’s the kid that comes out of the house undetected,” McGovern said. “It’s just complacency, the thought that this isn’t going to happen to me.”
During the pandemic, we have seen more children at home during the pandemic.
Last year, when cases were on the decline, more families planned pool parties and trips.
McGovern said the state was reporting more drownings at vacation homes and hotels.
“As a statewide initiative, we focused on talking to Airbnbs, the travel industry, to let them know they need to implement a process for tenants,” McGovern said. “So what we’re really trying to do is encourage the travel industry to see the value of putting different plaques around the pool, putting fences around the pool, putting the chimes on. door on the doors so that the child cannot easily access the pool.
Advocates are also pushing the travel industry to include a water safety message during the booking process.
McGovern described the best lines of defense against child drowning.
“Supervision is absolutely crucial when you’re in and around the water,” McGovern said.
First and foremost, constantly supervise children around water bodies.
Then install alarms on gates and fences around swimming pools.
“We know kids are fast,” McGovern said. “We know they are unpredictable. We know they are attracted to water, so we need to delay access to water as much as possible.
“Now if they break the door chime and fence, then at least master the basic skills enough to float or choo choo against the wall until help arrives.”
Finally, invest in swimming and CPR lessons.
“I think what I really want parents and caregivers to understand is that it can happen to you,” McGovern said.
In 2009, McGovern’s 19-month-old daughter Edna Mae died after drowning in the pool in the family’s garden.
Edna Mae slipped into the back as McGovern put away her groceries.
“Which I did when I noticed she wasn’t exactly where I left her, next to the kitchen… I looked around my house for her,” McGovern said. “I started to go out and unfortunately saw our daughter floating in our pool and my world stopped… I just held her and screamed.”
The family created the McGovern Foundation, a non-profit organization educating one family at a time about drowning prevention.
“When I kissed her goodbye, I promised her that I was going to do whatever I could to help raise awareness, to help save children, to help people understand that this is preventable and that this must not continue to happen, “said McGovern.
Experts have said children can drown in less than two inches of water, so you are advised to empty the containers.