Recent Massachusetts Drowning Deaths Remind All: Tragedy Doesn’t Take A Holiday

I’ve written about this topic before during summer, but it bears repeating, especially in view of some recent Massachusetts drowning accidents: Unless someone is an expert swimmer, swimming is & always has been a hazardous activity. Of course – who doesn’t want to dive in to a nice cool pool, pond or ocean when it’s summer and hot outside? That’s perfectly normal and natural. I don’t intend to be a “killjoy” here, but in my experience as a Massachusetts drowning accident lawyer, too few people – especially kids and even their parents – stop to think how dangerous this fun activity can really be.

One accidental gulp of water, one disorienting plunge underwater, one wrong-way fall into the water, and a swimmer can end up in real trouble, in a couple of seconds. Panic then ensues, and the swimmer can lose his or her clear thinking, and slip underneath the water. I’m sorry to be so direct, but the next stop can be brain damage from lack of oxygen. Just this past Monday, an 18-year-old lost his life while swimming at Upper Mystic Lake in Medford. According to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office,(Note: District Attorneys’ offices always investigate accidental deaths as a matter of standard procedure) the young man – a recent immigrant from Nepal who graduated only days before from Medford High School – did not know how to swim. Like many kids, all he knew was that he was hot and wanted to jump in the water. He had planned to attend UMass Amherst in the fall; now he is dead.

And this wasn’t the only drowning tragedy this year in Massachusetts — in June, Clinton High School freshman drowned in a pond. Unfortunately, if statistics hold true, this won’t be the last time this happens this year. The USA Swimming Foundation conducted a study in 2017, which found that over 60 per cent of children are a drowning risk – because they have basically don’t know how to swim safely. (No, safe swimming isn’t just jumping into the water.) Low income areas can see higher rates of the problem: It’s been reported that almost percent of kids from low income families have no to very limited swimming skills.

Here’s some useful – and stunning – facts: Nationally, each day an average of two children age 14 or under drown, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). When it comes to injury-related deaths for kids, drowning is the second-biggest cause, following car accidents. And in what is often a worse outcome than death (yes, you read that correctly), many more children are involved in nonfatal drownings, which very often cause severe and permanent brain damage. According to the CDC, these young drowning victims are usually male.

How to lower these casualty numbers? First, it can’t be said enough: Money should not be an issue in providing kids swimming instruction: Free and sharply discounted swimming lessons are widely available from providers such as cities and towns, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Massachusetts YMCA’s. Next, parents need to do far more than just send their kids to swimming lessons. The Swimming Foundation’s research discovered that kids who swim with their families are 2.7 times more likely to learn how to swim safely. Next, schools, doctors, and municipalities need to be more vocal about the risks of drowning and the wide availability of swimming lessons.

Summer is for getting outside, recreating, and playing. Just play it smart – especially when it comes to swimming and water sports. If we can help you more information, give us a call.