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Officials warn about child water safety after fatal drowning

RIVERTON, Utah – One toddler has passed away and another nearly drowned in separate incidents in swimming pools in Salt Lake County.

Officials from the Unified Police Department said a 3-year-old girl from Riverton who had been on life support since being found unconscious died from her injuries Monday.

A 3-year-old in West Jordan was rescued Saturday, and was later released from the hospital.

“The first things that go through your mind are hard to describe,” said Detective Shane Laycock, with the Unified Police Department.

He was the first on scene when the family in Riverton found their toddler floating in their neighbor’s above-ground pool. An adult sister had already started CPR.

“I took over instantly and began doing chest compressions,” he said.

The girl was taken to Riverton Hospital, then flown to Primary Children’s Hospital, where she passed away Monday afternoon.

“Water safety should be on the forefront of every parent’s mind this time of year,” said Det. Laycock, pointing out that pools and beaches are getting crowded as the temperatures warm up.

According to state statistics, accidental drowning is the third-leading cause of death among children in Utah. More than half of those deaths are among kids ages 0 to 4.

When you’re around water, a pool or a lake, Det. Laycock said keep an eye on young children. Don’t let them wander away, especially at pools without lifeguards.

At SwimKids in Holladay, Julia McGee put her 1-year-old son, Zachary, in swim lessons. She said she knew of a mother who lost a 19-month-old to drowning, and prioritized swim lessons for her kids.

“He loves it,” she said of her son.

McGee said it gives her peace of mind to see him learning to float and relax in the water. He was kicking and smiling, and learning the basics of holding his breath and keeping his head above water.

“I’ve also seen them mimic him falling into the pool and flipping him over to his back so that he does get used to that sensation if he does fall in,” said McGee.

Officials said if you’re not watching the children near a pool, make sure another adult is.

“You don’t hear a child drowning because they’re underwater,” said Liz Walker.

Walker started SwimKids 35 years ago when she had her first child. She had nearly drowned as a 7-year-old, and wanted her kids to be confident around water.

“I knew that young children could learn to swim at a young age,” she said. “There wasn’t really a program available for her.”

At Swimkids in Utah they start kids as early as four months, an age when the child can gain confidence in the water.

Within a few lessons, children gain confidence to swim across the pool, and roll over on their backs and breathe while keeping their heads out of water.

“To the point where they are individually safe. If they fell in, they could roll over on their back and breathe,“ said Walker.

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