Parents Urged to Take Steps to Prevent Accidental Drownings

With all of the great summer fun we've been having, Friday is the perfect day to head out to the pool or beach, but when you get out on the water, there are some important swimming safety concerns to keep in mind.

Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in kids ages 1 to 4. In Connecticut, seven kids die every year from unintentional drowning.

On Friday, Stew and Kim Leonard came to Eisenhower Pool and Park in West Hartford along with Senator Richard Blumenthal to remind parents about the dangers.

“Until you go through that you can’t really imagine what it’s like,” Kim Leonard, with the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation said.

It’s the warning on the water that Kim and her husband Stew Leonard are hoping makes waves once again.

“I hope I’m not going to read about any drownings this summer in the state of Connecticut,” Stew Leonard said.

The couple who lost their 21-month-old son in an accidental drowning in 1989, reminding parents today to put down their phones and designate a “water-watcher.”

 Over the years, they started a foundation aimed at educating parents, training lifeguards and providing thousands of low-cost swim lessons to kids every year.

Their message is to put down your cell phone and designate a water watcher.

It's also important to develop your own rules with your kids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1 to 4 years old than any other cause except for birth defects, most of them happening in home swimming pools.

For James Hajjar and his family the house rules are clear, his three kids are several of the more than 1,300 who will take swim lessons this summer at West Hartford public pools.

“I think we’re developing some strong swimmers but still working on it and want to make sure everybody is safe,” Hajjar said.

The town is offering scholarships this summer for underprivileged families to learn to swim for free and the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation helps provide free or reduced-cost swim lessons through Connecticut YMCA, Red Cross, USA Swimming Chapter and Parks and Recreation Departments.

“I’m just hoping that everyone realizes while water is a wonderful, joyful thing but you do have to be careful,” Leonard said.

For Leonard, it’s a reminder that she hopes will help prevent families from a summer time tragedy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends installing four-sided fencing around your pool with latches that kids cannot reach.

Parents are also encouraged to remove any toys from the deck area to remove the temptation for children.

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