Water Safety: Cruise Ship Drowning and Colin's Hope

pool water

A recent drowning aboard a cruise ship has me thinking about water safety.

Two small children were pulled from the Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Norwegian Breakaway” as the ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas. The accident occurred Tuesday morning; both boys were unresponsive when they were pulled from the water. The ship’s emergency medical team rushed to the scene and administered CPR.

The younger boy, age 4, was pronounced dead on the cruise ship. The older boy, age 6, was flown via US Coast Guard to a North Carolina hospital (Carolina East Medical Center) where he was revived. The boy’s parents are not sharing the boy’s condition with the public at this time.

In an official statement issued on NCL’s Facebook page, they said:

“After extensive efforts, the younger child could not be revived. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family during this extremely difficult time and are providing full assistance and support.”

The 18-deck ship with a 4,000 passenger capacity has several pool areas including an aqua park for young children. There is also a supervised program for children ages 3 to 17 called Splash Academy. At the moment, no one is saying which pool the children were found near, nor whether or not they were under the care of Splash Academy.

Like most cruise ship pools, it was not attended by a lifeguard.

cruise ship pool

All Too Common

This is the third event in the last nine months that has involved children who have drowned or were permanently injured in cruise ship swimming pools. The busy atmosphere gives a false sense of security to parents who often think someone must be watching their children, even though there was not a lifeguard on duty.

Disney recently appointed lifeguards on all its cruise ships and resorts after a similar incident.

Aboard the Disney Fantasy, a four-year-old boy was found nearly drowned when a man who was playing with his children in the Donald pool fished the small boy out of the water. The boy wasn’t breathing and was not responsive; police determined he was deprived of oxygen for up to six minutes. He was flown to Cape Canaveral Hospital, later airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for further treatment where it was determined he had suffered severe brain damage. He has since been working to regain mobility and does not seem to have regained his speech, according to a Facebook page the family keeps updated.

On the page, the family shares that Chase Lykken spent three weeks in PICU and was then transferred to a rehab unit at a local children’s hospital in St. Paul. He is now breathing on his own recovering at home with his family.

Colin's Hope

Colin's Hope

Drowning is the number one cause of death of children under four. In addition, research has shown that boys are four times more likely to drown than girls.

After a tragedy of their own, the family of a young boy started a foundation called Colin’s Hope in order to promote water safety.

Colin, whom the organization was named after, was born in Texas in 2003. The family enrolled Colin in swimming lessons and at age four, he was becoming brave and seemingly proficient in the pool. In lessons, he learned to stay under water, kick his feet, and blow bubbles. After his final day in swimming lessons, his family went to a pool he’d never been to before. Colin played in the fountains with friends while several adults watched. He was moving around the shallow end where he and the other children were playing and splashing. In an instant, it seemed, Colin was no longer with the group. From the website:

“Time stood still as their eyes swept the pool looking for him, and then, only moments later, he was pulled from the shallow water unconscious and not breathing. Efforts to revive him at the pool were unsuccessful, and Colin died at the hospital the next day, having never opened his eyes again after his swim.”

This brave family started Colin’s Hope after they learned how such a preventable accident could claim the lives of so many small children. Colin’s Hope aims to promote water safety in the community, to educate children, parents, and lifeguards on drowning prevention.

The group’s vision statement?

“Colin’s Hope envisions a world where children do not drown.”

Girl swimming lessons

Water Safety Guidelines

Even though it’s winter, many families are taking cruises or vacationing to warmer, pool-centric locations with their children. As we’ve learned, being on a crowded ship or near a busy body of water does not guarantee water safety for children. Here are the layers of protection promoted by Colin’s Hope to ensure a fun and safe water experience.

Constant Visual Supervision:

Keep an eye on your kids in the pool, particularly if there is not a lifeguard on duty. As we’ve seen from these tragic stories, it only takes a few minutes for an accident to happen and minutes can mean a great deal in these situations.

Learn to Swim:

Kids should certainly not be in an unsupervised pool without some confidence garnered by swimming lessons. Kids can generally begin formal swimming lessons at age three and you should continue to encourage them to build their confidence in the pool when going on outings.

Wear Life Jackets:

If you’re taking a kid around water, whether or not they’re in swimming lessons, ensuring they have a safe means of flotation is critical. Again, this is another layer of protection that will ensure safety if one of the other means fails.

Keep Backyards and Bathrooms Safe:

This includes making sure that you have proper guards that adhere to local laws and making sure wandering toddlers aren’t getting themselves in trouble. Make sure you aren’t leaving open doors leading to filled bathtubs or uncovered pools.

Check Pools and Hot Tubs First for Missing Children:

If you have a toddler or young child whom you can’t seem to find around the house, make sure you check the pool immediately. If they have fallen in, it’s imperative that you find them as soon as possible. Instead of checking the usual suspects, consider the potentially most dangerous ones first.

Multiple Barriers on All Pools and Hot Tubs:

This means covers, guard rails, and closed doors around them to limit access. Not to mention the most important barrier--parental supervision.

Learn CPR:

This life saving skill could be the difference between life and death. You never know what kind of response time the local ambulance will have, or you could be somewhere that isn’t an option. If you plan on building a pool or buying a hot tub, take the time to get CPR certified, too. You can find a local class through the American Red Cross website.

swimming fence

Whether you're planning a trip or are a pool owner yourself, please take the time to read and share these tips on water safety. The steps really are simple and they could mean a world of difference to you or someone you know.

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