For most children, water means fun, playtime and adventure, in a refreshing pool, a quaint lake or the rolling ocean waves.
But it can also mean danger.
Following a drowning accident that took the life of his toddler son last month, Colin Comer of Simi Valley has spearheaded a foundation that will not only keep his son’s memory alive but also aims to ensure that a similar tragedy doesn’t happen to another family. (See story on Page 1.)
It took just minutes for Comer’s son, Benjamin, who would have turned 3 this month, to make his way to a pool that had no security gate.
Each year, more than 250 children under the age of 5 are drowning victims, often in their own backyards. For Comer, that number is not a statistic, it’s reality, one he’ll have to live with for the rest of his life.
In tribute to Benjamin, Comer is determined to make drowning prevention a priority in Simi Valley. He created Ben’s Scholarship Fund and is working in partnership with the Simi Valley YMCA to offer free, life-saving swim lessons and water safety classes for local children.
At public parks, there are fences, barriers and trained lifeguards on duty to keep swimmers safe. But many residential pools don’t have the same safety measures in place. What’s most troubling about drownings is that a child in trouble may not be able to alert anyone by splashing or yelling for help.
With the hot weather still coming, this is not the time to let down our guard.
The following tips are a good starting point:
• If you own a pool, consider installing a fence that is at least 4 feet high with a locking mechanism beyond a child’s reach.
• Remove any objects from the area that would allow children to climb over the fence surrounding the pool.
Consider adding a motion sensor and gate alarms to alert you to anyone approaching or jumping into the pool.
And never — even for a moment — leave small children alone or in the care of another child while in the pool or spa.
Children should always be closely supervised in and around water. An adult should always be focused on the children and not distracted by other activities.
Statistics show that drowning is the leading cause of preventable death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 in the U.S. And here in California, drowning is the leading cause of preventable death for children under 14.
Nothing can bring Benjamin back, but with the help of the YMCA and the support of the community, we can help Comer fulfill his goal to raise awareness about pool safety and make sure that every local family has access to life-saving swim lessons and water safety classes.