Osceola County sees severe spike in drowning incidents, officials say – WFTV

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Florida – Osceola County is experiencing a disturbing trend this year with an increase in drowning and “near-drowning” calls.

Swimming safety signs are posted throughout the county.

“It’s a problem,” Osceola Fire Rescue Lt. John Szlezak said. “We started to drown one after another, day after day, day after day, and it started in January. ”

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This year, the Osceola County Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services responded to 67 drowning calls. During the same period in 2019, they were called to 25 drowning calls; that’s an increase of 168%.

“Unfortunately, our station received more than half of these calls,” Szlezak said.

Station 71 is on the west side of Osceola County and is known as the Four Corners area. This is where the counties of Lake, Polk, Orange and Osceola meet.

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“It’s primarily a vacation community,” Szlezak added. “Mostly timeshares and Airbnb rentals. Almost all of them are people here on vacation.

This poses a problem because sharing swimming safety with people who are not locals can be difficult.

To help alleviate the situation, officials have developed door hangers that they have installed on vacation homes and roadside bulletin boards.

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So far this year, all but two of Osceola’s drowning calls have been from children. Their age varies from 7 months to 15 years.

“To see such a significant increase in the past two months, people are really focusing on this and what we can do to prevent it,” said Dr. Jenna Wheeler of Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Health.

Wheeler said that due to the pandemic, the kids may have missed out on lessons and refresher courses before ending up around a swimming pool again.

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“It’s really important that these kids have this knowledge,” Wheeler said. “It’s just right now trying to get through those three things, the ABCs. ”

A is adult supervision.

“Always make sure there is an adult responsible for the child,” Wheeler added.

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B is barriers – like a door around the pool.

It’s lessons, and not just kid’s swimming lessons, but adult CPR lessons that will really help with drowning.

“We see a lot where this CPR in that initial first minute has really made a difference,” said Wheeler.

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