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.

Prevent drowning

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.

lachlan legacy

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%)


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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  • How sad the outcome for sending your child to daycare. A terrible accident that can happen anytime. Fee sad for all concerned.


  • A very big failure on the Carer’s part – I assume she got complacent.


  • A horrible accident. Perhaps it could have been prevented but something like that could have just as easily happened while he was in the parent’s care.


  • So tragic !! Glad the daycare center my daughter goes to doesn’t have a pool, she’s super dangerous around water !


  • how devastating! a daycare should know how children climb and children that want to be in that pool will move heaven and earth to get in there! I currently have a Houdini in the house and constantly finding new ways to lock everything up to keep him safe!


  • Its not just drowning thst is a supervision issue either. I’m sick of seeing parents walking down the street with 2 year olds trailing half a block behind them. Parents that are usually on their phone. Little kids are so so unpredictable and whether its around water or around roads or even around animals. You have to be right there with them the whole time. If the worst happens you can’t bring thrm back and it will feel like eternity you will spend regretting that 30 seconds to do something that could have waited.

    • Absolutely agree. It must be terrible if it happened while you were caring of your child. And I imagine it’s even worse even if you were caring for someone else’s child. :-(


  • Poor boy. It’s still not clear how he got access into the pool, but I wonder if those plants that were supposed to be moved away from the fence, are responsible.


  • this issue is always a concern for when the hot weather comes on


  • In SA some above ground pools don’t have to be fenced at all. Making sure the ladder isn’t close is not good enough in my opinion.


  • My husband has started wandering in and out of the bathroom while our 3 and half year old is in the bath and when I found out I nearly killed him. Things can go wrong so quickly and it doesn’t cost a single cent to sit next to the bath and chat to him until he’s done.


  • How sad is this ! It sure isn’t just a parenting approach Mel, but also a community approach. And we can’t be thorough and careful enough. Thanks for sharing your story. Blessings to you and your family as you grieve the loss of Lachlan.


  • This is such a sad story.


  • this is heart wrenching to read, in this day and age after so many backyard drownings everyone should be vigilant and all pools secured.

    Maybe pool owners need to register their pools with the council so council can perform safety checks yearly and if they fail the check then the owner pays a fine, to try and help keep kids safe?


  • This is so tragic and heartbreaking for everyone.


  • This is so sad. I feel for these parents.

    • Their grief and heartbreak must be unimaginable. I feel for every parent that has endured this heartbreak.


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