Few seconds of inattention led to drownings in Stanislaus County

etracy@modbee.comJuly 21, 2013 

    Erin Tracy
    Title: Breaking news reporter
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, crime
    Bio: Erin Tracy started working for The Bee in September 2010. She has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University and previously worked at the Daily Democrat in Woodland and the Times-Standard in Eureka.
    Recent stories written by Erin
    On Twitter: @ModestoBeeCrime
    E-mail: etracy@modbee.com

— Three toddlers in Stanislaus County have drowned in backyard pools and spas this year, and one other survived but suffered debilitating injuries.

All of the children's caretakers were cleared of criminal behavior or negligence and, in fact, safety precautions such as alarms on doors, locks and fences around pools were present in most of the incidents.

The two factors in all three child drownings this year have been the distraction of guests at the home coupled with a few seconds of inattention.

In Denair, an 18-month-old boy's older sibling was having a slumber party in March. There were about a half-dozen other children at the home when someone left a door open and the child slipped out of the house and into the pool, according to sheriff's Detective Megan Brazil. He was taken by helicopter to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera but died the next day.

Brazil said in June that a 2-year-old girl drowned in a spa during a birthday party in Hughson that included other children and adults. Family members started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and a sheriff's deputy continued, but the girl was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Life lost in neighbor's pool

Just last week, a 1-year-old boy drowned in the next-door-neighbor's pool in west Modesto when he sneaked out of the house while his father visited with relatives.

No one person can always have eyes on a child, but Brazil suggests assigning a "point person" to watch the child during gatherings. That will help avoid situations in which a father thinks the child's mother is watching her, and the mother believes her sister has the baby and so on until no one can find her and it is too late.

Brazil said investing in a child-proof cover for pools and spas is crucial.

So far this year, there have been as been as many pool or spa drownings as the previous two years combined in Stanislaus County.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported in May that an average of 390 children drowned in spas or pools each year from 2010 through 2012 in the United States. Seventy-six percent of those fatalities involved children younger than 5.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209) 578-2366.

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