After pool accident, fire-rescue urges caution

Steve Stefanides

The wonderment and joy surrounding a vacation on the top-rated island for fun and smiles soon turned to anguish and torment due to the tragedy of a drowning incident.

A kiddie perimeter fence can be easily installed as a secondary barrier for children at the pool.

Marco Island emergency services personnel last week responded to a call for a possible drowning on Parkhouse Court on Marco. The couple visiting from Champaign, Illinois, called for assistance when they found their 18-month-old in the pool at the residence and called Marco Fire-Rescue around 5 p.m. as they began CPR in an attempt to revive the youngster.

Fire-rescue personnel treated the youngster at the scene. The child was transported to NCH, and was being cared for in intensive care. On Monday, the child was taken off life support.

“In Florida, drowning is the No. 1 cause of deaths in children 5 or under,” said Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy. “It is truly one of the most heart-wrenching calls our personnel can respond to.”

Florida led the nation in child drowning deaths in 2014 with a total of 50 fatalities in pools or spas, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Last year, 84 deaths were attributed to all drownings in children 15 and under in the state.

“Many of our personnel have young children,” said Sgt. Nick Ojanovak of the Marco Island Police Department. “We and the fire-rescue personnel are not immune to the sorrow and the heartbreak felt by parents in this type of incident. It affects us all deeply as many of us are parents.”

Avoiding tragedy

Although under zoning codes a pool is required to have sliding doors alarmed and be fenced or have an enclosure, there are other additional means of preventing this type of tragedy from occurring.

“Floating alarms in the pool itself, which will emit a warning alarm should a child fall into a pool unobserved, is one way of adding additional protection,” said Matt Stoller, the owner of Calusa Pool Services on Marco Island. “It really is an inexpensive way of adding some additional protection for your young children.”

New homes being built on the island are required to have an alarm on windows or doors that might provide access to a pool area to warn owners if a door is opened by a child or others.

Another style of protection is the addition of a “kiddie fence” immediately around the perimeter of the pool. These are easily installed and can be removed once all children are grown or reinstalled if grandchildren are visiting. Pool alarms and kiddie fencing can be obtained at most local pool supply stores.

The Greater Marco YMCA offers swimming instructions.

Joel Frysinger heads the aquatics program for the YMCA at 380 Sand Hill St.

“We offer a number of programs from 12 months to adults. We are really proud of our ‘Mommy and Me,’ or the ‘Daddy and Me’ programs that are run for the very young. The emphasis of that program is to help them survive an accidental fall into the water. These are scheduled as the need arises by simply having a family member contact me,” said Frysinger. “It is usually done as part of a 4 separate sessions with the instructor.”

A new program the Y began last year is “Water Wise,” run for all the third-grade students at Tommie Barfield and Manatee Elementary schools. During this time, the children are taught by the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department, lifeguards at the Y and the U. S. Coast Guard.

“The children learn some basics in first-aid, common-sense safety instruction and basic boating instruction. It was very successful last year and we’ll continue the program for those elementary school youngsters starting in May,” said Frysinger.

More information

Frysinger can be reached by calling him at the YMCA, 394-7327 ext. 106, to inquire about lessons at the YMCA.