Houston area leads state in child drownings

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Summer has barely begun, yet several recent drownings have the greater Houston area leading the state in these deadly accidents.

According to the Houston Fire Department there have been 16 child drownings in Texas this year and half of those occurred in the Houston area.

Fire department officials also said of the 90 child drownings in Texas last year, 18 happened in the greater Houston area -- more than any other spot in the state.

Many safety experts said these numbers only further underscore the need to teach swimming safety at an early age.

"The sooner that they know that being in the water is actually fun and it's not scary, then the better they'll be for their future and prevent drownings," said Katy Sowa, lead swimming instructor at the YMCA facility on Stella Link.

Sowa said parents need to start teaching their child basic safety at an early age. Sowa recommends first teaching children how to blow bubbles and close their mouths when they go underwater.

"Those are skills that can be made in the bathtub. When you're bathing your child you can get them to stick their face in the water and blow some bubbles," said Sowa.

Sowa said from that point children then need to learn to float, how to come up for air and basic water safety.

"As long as they're safe and know what to do if they reach a position, like if they go in the deep water, know how to reach the wall, or know how to call for help or know what a lifeguard is," said Sowa.

"A lot of parents, they'll have their iPhone out or a book and that's all it takes," said mom Rachael Spears. "One second you're not looking."

Silvia Gallardo said she started taking her children to swimming lessons at an early age because she said her husband never learned to swim and nearly drowned.

"If they can get in, they can get out," said Gallardo. "They can save their own life."

Sowa said this is why water safety is critical. Sowa said teaching a child solid swimming safety can keep them from panicking when they get into trouble.

"A child who doesn't panic is more likely to get out of danger than a child who panics," said Sowa.

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