Drownings, near-drownings in children up 600% since last year, experts say

ORLANDO, Fla. — Drownings and near-drownings of children, especially those under age 3, have spiked drastically across Central Florida.

Last month, admissions at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children increased by 600% compared to the same time a year ago.

Just two weeks ago at a popular Orlando water park resort, a 4-year-old boy was found underwater and unresponsive. The 4-year-old survived.

READ: Woman killed in ‘suspicious’ hit-and-run crash in Lake Mary identified

Dr. Don Plumley is the medical director of pediatric trauma at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, where admissions and near-drownings in May are more than double the past three years.

“(For) the families, it’s awful to deal with this,” Plumley said.

An influx of vacationers not used to water account for many incidents, and so has a year-long pandemic without swim lessons.

READ: Deputies investigate incident involving goats, glitter at local high school

Last year, survival swim instructors petitioned the governor with thousands of signatures, asking him to allow swim lessons in the pandemic. They never heard back.

Plumley said it’s a missed opportunity since many parents working from home were caught up in new responsibilities.

He calls supervision the key to swim safety: Always designate a “water watcher,” make sure there are barriers to any water access and as children need swim lessons, adults can learn CPR and save lives.

READ: Central Florida remembers George Floyd 1 year after his murder

“It just takes a moment’s distraction to lose track of one child, and the results are just devastating,” Plumley said.

It’s estimated that there are about 1.1 million backyard pools across the state.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.