Drownings On Rise In Alabama

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email


For Ann Newman the pain never stops.

"He died in Montgomery. It's just as raw to me as the day it happened," said Newman.

It happened one year ago at a friend's swimming pool in Montgomery. Newman's great-grandson, Tyler Nickerson was just 4-years old.

"I have two scenarios," Newman said.

One possibility is that Tyler fell in the pool by accident. Newman wonders about the other scenario.

"They said he had a bump on his head. I'd like to think that Tyler was running and eating potato chips, slipped and hit his head and fell in," Newman said.

Regardless of 'how' Tyler fell in Ann Newman will tell you it wasn't the water that killed him but irresponsibility.

"Just miscommunications between two people, somebody turned their back," said Newman.

Last year, a total of 25 people drowned in lakes and rivers in Alabama according to Marine Police. So far this year, 22 have drowned. In fact, two people drowned in June within 48 hours of each other near the same spot on the Alabama River in Elmore County.

What isn't clear is how many people drown in swimming pools in Alabama every year.

"I became a lifeguard," said Jessie Camp.

Prattville YMCA lifeguard Jessie Camp believes one of the most common reasons is non-swimmers often underestimate their ability to swim or in the case of a river, underestimate the power of the undercurrents.

"They just sink to the bottom," said Camp.

Even more puzzling is the mere fact some will get in the water knowing full well they can't swim.

"I don't know if it's a pride thing. They really think they can but can't and that happens a lot," said Newman.

Swimming lessons can go along way in preventing a drowning.

"We have parent-child swim lessons. That gets them in the water, teaches them how to float. They're never too young to get them started. A lot of what we do here is teach kids how to be safe.. not just swim," said Camp.

Camp also encourages families to consider hiring a lifeguard if they have a pool party. Camp says the Prattville 'Y' offers swimming lessons throughout the year.

"That's the best option. Anything can happen," said Camp.

Ann Newman knows that better than anyone. Tyler's family wants Alabama lawmakers to mandate more protective devices on private swimming pools.

Right now local communities determine what's required. In Prattville, for instance, a swimming pool must have a fence around it with a self-locking gate. Newman says the pool in which Tyler drowned in Montgomery had a fence but an un-locked gate.

"It can break up a family because everybody wants to blame someone. You can't just say 'hey.. come swim in the pool. You got to be responsible for everybody,' said Newman.

A swimming lesson learned the hard way.

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