Emergency teams warn on drowning

2008-09-24 00:00

Emergency workers are bracing themselves for a spate of drownings from September onwards. The most vulnerable are children and most victims of accidents in domestic swimming pools are toddlers, say water safety experts.

Speaking after Tuesday’s swimming pool tragedy, which claimed the lives of two year-old identical twin girls, Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said there is always a spate of drownings at the beginning of summer and during the festive season.

Last year, eight children drowned in swimming pools in KwaZulu-Natal, he said.

Botha said yesterday that the parents of the twins were extremely traumatised. They had entrusted their daughters to the care of a domestic worker and a family member.

The children had somehow slipped out of their Umhlanga home and were later found motionless in the swimming pool.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate the children for more than an hour, but they were declared dead on the scene.

It is understood that the swimming pool was not covered by a net and was not fenced.

Easlyn Young, manager of Swimsa’s Learn to Swim Programme, said that although no one can say that parents who do not secure domestic swimming pools are guilty of neglect, tragedies such as this point to a need for parents to take greater responsibility for the safety of their children.

She said this includes ensuring that domestic workers caring for children are well briefed about pool safety and taught how to swim.

“Tragedies like this hurt parents not for a day, but for a lifetime because they have to live with the guilt,” she said.

Young added that municipalities need to legislate around homes with swimming pools. She said that home owners should be prosecuted for not covering pools and for not ensuring that the pools are surrounded by a fence with locking gates.

Young said that there are no official national statistics. However, in Johannesburg last year, there were about 100 drownings. Most were in domestic swimming pools and a large portion of victims were children. Of these, most were toddlers.

Netcare 911 reported more than 400 drownings and near-drownings between September 1, 2006, and August 2007.

KwaZulu-Natal had the most at 147, with Johannesburg at 107 and the Western Cape at 88.

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