Be a ‘water watcher’: Six children drown or nearly drown in four weeks in Polk County

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Three young children died over a four week period in Polk County in what officials call an “unusual” and “tragic” coincidence.

Three other children nearly drowned.

“We want to put a safety message out there to people that you absolutely cannot take your eyes off your child at any time for any minute when there’s water nearby,” said Carrie Horstman, public information officer at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office posted on Facebook about the disturbing trend to bring awareness to its legion of followers.

“Children can drown literally right in front of you. They can be in the same pool with you. They don’t make a sound, they sink,” said Horstman.

While your child may know how to swim, a visitor may not, especially if they are from out of town.

“Children who say ‘I’m just gonna run inside and get a toy,’ you have to go inside with them if there’s a pool at that house because maybe somebody didn’t leave the door locked when they should,” said Horstman.

That is how a 3-year-old drowned in Lakeland in recent weeks, Horstman said.

The incidents happened from Dundee to Lakeland to Kissimmee.

The “Four Corners” area of Polk County typically sees a higher number of drownings, due to the influx of tourists from out-of-state.

“We shouldn’t let anything distract us ever from kids that are unsupervised in a pool,” said Lakeland Fire Department Rescue Chief Shane Reynolds.

Reynolds urges adults to make sure all gates, fences, doors are locked.

When kids are in the pool, there should be a “water watcher” supervising from outside the pool.

“A water watcher can be any adult who is responsible, who is not going to be eating or drinking or participating in anything else but watching children while there’s an event at the home,” said Rescue Chief Reynolds.

Another child, 8 On Your Side learned, wiggled out of his or her life jacket and drowned in a pool full of people.

“Making sure it doesn’t slip off of you. Make sure it’s not choking you. Having those in your mindset is very important,” said Nick Le, aquatics supervisor for the city of Lakeland.

Babies as young as three months old can participate in swimming lessons.

“We run the American Red Cross learn to swim program. So we have parent/child, which starts at 3 months. We have kids that come in here with swim diapers on,” said Le.

Available swimming lessons in Lakeland can be found here.

Classes available throughout Polk County can be found here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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