Summer water-safety push ramps up as danger rises - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Summer water-safety push ramps up as danger rises

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Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 10:45 am | Updated: 10:49 am, Fri Jul 1, 2011.

Fire and rescue crews soon will be pounding the pavement to get the word out about the importance of water safety.

With a goal to reach 60,000 homes, fire personnel and volunteers — including those in Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Apache Junction, San Tan Valley and Queen Creek — will be distributing informational brochures and tips door to door in partnership with Banner Cardon Children’s Medical Center, Rural Metro Fire Department, Southwest Ambulance and Salt River Project’s Safety Connection from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

With 16 fatalities from water-related incidents in the Valley this year so far, including eight in the East Valley, the agencies are encouraging people to read the literature and not throw it away. They say water safety education can help save more lives, especially in the way of having a fence around the pool, adult supervision and knowing CPR.

“It’s been an early start for drowning calls,” said Michele Long, a fire and life safety education safety specialist for the Mesa Fire Department. “We’re hearing that this is happening to people who never thought it would happen to them. We want to stress this is not about parenting skills — it’s about a turn of the head. Toddlers can get out of your sight so quick.”

Five of the year’s East Valley water-related fatalities are children, according to statistics reported by fire departments throughout Maricopa County to Children’s Safety Zone, which monitors drowning calls. Gilbert has had two child fatalities from water-related incidents, Chandler one and Mesa two, according to the statistics.

Last year by April 30, there were no fatal drownings in the East Valley, but there were 10 fatal drownings throughout the rest of the Valley, including five children, according to the statistics.

In fact, the leading cause of death for children in Arizona ranging in age from 1 to 4 are drownings, the statistics show.

In many cases, although parents keep a watchful eye over children during family events around swimming pools, all it takes is a turn of the head, two inches of water or someone not knowing how to swim to create a dangerous scenario if a small child or an adult falls into a swimming pool, bathtub and most recently, the Salt River in east Mesa. On Sunday, the body of a 16-year-old boy was recovered; he apparently drowned trying to swim across a 50-foot stretch across the river on Pebble Beach near the Blue Point Bridge, in Rural/Metro Fire Department’s jurisdiction. Witnesses saw the boy go under about 1 p.m., but nobody could get to him or find him, said Mark Cichocki, a Rural/Metro spokesman.

At least one East Valley family was lucky after one recent water-related incident, but rescue officials stress that’s a rare outcome.

The morning of April 17 began busier than normal for a Sunday at the home of Suzanna Saghin in east Mesa: Nine-year-old Tristin Saghin was inside the house playing a video game. His mother Kimberly had just finished combing the hair of Brooke Saghin, Tristin’s 2-year-old sister, and was folding sheets as they were getting ready to head out for the day. Suzanna, their grandmother, was taking a shower. Then it hit them like a ton of bricks — “Where is the baby?” Kimberly asked.

Unknown to all of them, Brook Saghin was outside and had fallen into the family pool. She was found floating in the water, not breathing — and it wasn’t known how long she had been in it.

That weekend, there were at least four drowning calls in the Valley alone, including the fatality of a 3-year-old girl at a Mesa home the day before. The Saghin incident was the only one with a positive outcome; after Brooke’s mother pulled her out of the pool, Tristin performed CPR on her — something he learned from watching the movie “Black Hawk Down.” The boy’s actions proved pivotal in saving his sister’s life before emergency crews arrived and took her to the hospital.

“This could’ve happened to anyone, but we never thought it could’ve happened to us,” said Brooke’s father, Chris Saghin, who flew into Arizona from the family’s home in Las Vegas when he was informed of the incident. Earlier this month, the mother of an 11-month-old girl pulled her from a bathtub in Tempe after the child’s mother left her unattended with the water running, but it didn’t drain out of the tub properly.

The child remains in critical condition, according to information from the Tempe Police Department.

“No body of water is safe,” said Cichocki.“We want to get the word out to stress the importance of adult supervision and fences around pools. Drownings can happen to anybody, anywhere, anytime, but with people being educated on water safety, it can better be prevented.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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