Toddler’s drowning at family daycare was “entirely preventable”.
Earlier this year, Melanie Mitchell shared with MoM that her precious son, Lachlan, passed away just two days before his third birthday after drowning at a family day care in November 2015.
An inquest into the drowning of a two-year-old boy in Perth this week has heard his death could have been avoided, reports 7 news.
On Monday, 20 November, an inquest into his death heard his parents Luke and Melanie believe Lachlan’s death was “entirely preventable”.
It’s believed the pool gate wasn’t properly secured, or that little Lachlan had climbed on a pot plant to get over the fence.
The tragedy happened while his carer was inside trying to get another child to sleep.
Ms Zablah had three children under her care on the day of the incident, including an 11-month-old boy, reports 9 news.
She had taken the 11-month-old inside to have a nap and was outside with Lachlan but returned inside to take care of the infant when he started crying.
The counsel assisting the coroner said Ms Zablah left Lachlan outside alone for seven minutes and when she came back she found him floating face-down in the pool.
The court heard Lachlan may have scaled the pool fence by climbing onto pot plants nearby or that the gate had not been properly closed.
The Mitchell family is now calling for pools at day care centres across the state to be banned and follow the lead of other jurisdictions like New South Wales.
Last year Karla Zablah was fined $6500 for failing to ensure Lachlan was adequately supervised.
While there are many physical things parents and pool owners can do to prevent drowning, Mel believes largely that it’s a community attitude that needs to change to support parents with water safety. A good start is keeping prevention at the forefront of everyone’s mind all year round.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children 1-14 years (AIHW). Doing all the right things with swimming lessons and CPR just isn’t enough if supervision is lacking, the pool environment is not secure or the outdoor space not made safe.
Melanie wants to remind people that drowning does happen to good parents.
Backyard drownings do not mean that a child wasn’t loved. It doesn’t mean that a parent was intentionally irresponsible or neglectful. It certainly doesn’t give the public the right to persecute the family and make sweeping assumptions on how it happened, Mel told MoM earlier this year.
“We did a childrens’ CPR course and swimming lessons. We emptied our inflatable paddle pool and put it out of reach after every use. We closed the toilet door, we put the water bowl behind the baby gate, we never left him in the bath unattended and were within arms reach at the public swimming pool.”
“We asked our carer about safety and her attitude towards the pool (1 outside, all outside; 1 inside, all inside – no child left unattended). She was a seasoned carer with nearly 2 decades of experience, a police clearance and CPR training. The pool met current council regulations and provider expectations.”
“We did all the right things and asked all the right questions as parents but our child still died.”
Every family’s experience with drowning is different. However, one common theme among bereaved parents seems to be the shared sadness that comes with each and every drowning after your child’s death. The knowledge that such tragedy is preventable.
There are always people who like to play devil’s advocate to change. They argue everything from wrapping kids in cotton wool to the inconvenience of a pool fence and they can be as dangerous as the pool itself. While it may seem harmless, it is actually counter productive as they undermine a parent’s instinct and dismiss the responsibility of the pool owner entirely. We can negate their influence by giving parents and pool owners the confidence to make good choices for little ones around water.
When an accident happens it creates an opportunity for learning and for change. An opportunity to remove the contributing factors that add up to childhood drownings.
Lachlan’s death calls into question not only carer responsibilities but day care environments, pool regulations and consistency as well. His death could potentially go a long way to making all backyards and day cares safer for children in WA and Australia!
Unfortunately the opportunity for learning with Lachlan’s death is going largely unnoticed and unexplored putting more little lives at risk every day that the inquest is delayed.
Mel shares on Lachlan’s Legacy Facebook page, Winter ‘Tis the season of mud pies and puddle jumping!
However, don’t be fooled into thinking drowning is strictly a summer issue. Kids under 5 are at risk all year round as their natural curiosity for water knows no season.
Now would be a good time to do a quick safety audit ensuring your outdoor space is secure and safe from drowning hazards for the winter.
Just remember; when packing away the inflatable or paddle pool or anything that can hold water like buckets and wheelbarrows, ensure that they are stored in a way and/or place they can’t fill up with water when it rains.
As Mel says, “It’s a community approach that will reduce statistics not just a parenting one.”
The statistics are horrifying
The 2016 drowning report from Royal Life Saving found between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2015, 83 drowning deaths in private pools were recorded.
The key findings related to appropriate supervision, pool fencing and emergency care.
• Supervision was completely absent in 59% of cases, with older siblings or other children left to supervise younger children in 6% of cases
• Among cases where it was known how long a child was left unsupervised for, 33% of children were left unattended for 5-10 minutes and 30% were left unattended for 3-5 minutes
• Among cases with information on fencing available, fencing was present in 27% of cases, absent in 27% of cases and faulty in 35% of cases
• Among cases with available information, children most commonly gained access to the pool through a faulty fence or gate (38%), lack of a fence (31%) or a gate which was propped open (18%)
280 PEOPLE DROWNED IN AUSTRALIAN WATERWAYS BETWEEN 1 JULY 2015 AND 30 JUNE 2016
Kidsafe Victoria’s pool safety tips:
•Never take your eyes off children around water; if you have to leave the water area for any reason, take the children with you.
•Appoint an adult as a designated supervisor, including at BBQ’s and pool parties. Never leave toddlers in the care of older children.
•When you are supervising toddlers, ensure that you are within arms’ reach at all times.
•Ensure that your pool safety barrier is secure and in proper working order.
•Never prop the pool gate open, this allows children easy and often unsupervised access to the pool area.
•Learn CPR and update your skills regularly. Resuscitation posters kept near pools are a good reminder.
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