Wake up call for parents after near drownings in Travis County



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Posted on June 8, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 10 at 2:28 PM

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas -- With the heat of summer approaching, many families are spending lots of time in the water.

People in The Commons neighborhood in Pflugerville say everyone came together at the community clubhouse Friday night for a get together and a toddler had to be rescued. It was one of two incidents within a matter of minutes Austin Travis County EMS responded to. Down in Del Valle an eight month old had to be rescued also.

Responders say it's more common than you might think. They say it's that time of year when kids are out of school and pools are crowded.

"It's a big concern, because when there's a lot of people around, you know, a door could get left open, and they can just go in," said parent Stephanie Althoff, who was at the pool in Pflugerville when the toddler almost drowned.

Althoff and her three-year-old son Peyton spend at least four days a week at the community pool.

"Our child can't swim, so he's always in a life jacket, and we've taught him water safety," Althoff said. "He doesn't go near the water without his life jacket on, and I'm with him in the water."

Still, she says the incident Friday night was a wake up call.

"They acted really quick, grabbed him, pulled him out, and he was fine. Found his mom, and he was scared but he was OK," she explained. "Any parent knows you can turn your head for a second and turn back around, and your kid could be following you but you don't' know where they are for a split second."

Responders say the signs of drowning aren't what you might expect. The person won't make noise or move much, and rarely will they call for help.

"Hollywood has kind of given us an image of what a drowning looks like. It's very dramatic. They're typically thrashing about screaming and yelling," said ATCEMS Commander Andy Hofmeister. "But that's not always the case. In fact, in a lot of cases, it's not at all the case.

Hofmeister said a drowning person might show signs of struggle on their face or their hands might look as if they're climbing an invisible ladder, but the worst sound is silence.

"People can slip under the water very quickly, and you may never hear a thing at all," Hofmeister explained. "They may be too fatigued to struggle, too fatigued to cry out."

He says prevention is key, and it's important to have at least one person watching the pool at all times, keep count of the number of people swimming, and of course use floaties or a life jacket if necessary.

"Making sure there's at least one person watching, keeping eyes on the water, keeping count of who's in the water and whats going on," he said.

The Althoff family says it's a good reminder.

"That's the big concern with pools and school being out and kids excited to go swimming," Althoff said.

Three young Central Texans have already lost their lives this year in apparent drownings.

The homeowners association in that Pflugerville neighborhood says they're planning on sending pool safety information and water safety kits to the residents there.

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