Even before summer has officially begun, Massachusetts sustained its first drowning death.
And it took the life of one of those must susceptible to this type of fatal accident.
A 4-year-old boy swimming with several other children drowned on Memorial Day in a pool at a Brookline home while several adults were present, police said in a news release.
According to the release, first responders were dispatched to a house on Prescott Street at about 4:40 p.m. after the boy was found floating unresponsive in the pool.
A police dispatcher guided adults at the scene in performing CPR until paramedics arrived and continued life-saving efforts, the release said.
The child was transported to Boston Children’s Hospital, and pronounced dead shortly after his arrival, according to the release.
Police tried to use the tragedy as a teaching moment.
“For so many of us, Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer, and this tragedy serves as an important reminder that drowning can happen in a matter of seconds, and it’s often silent, not the way it’s depicted in the movies or on television,’’ the release stated.
According to the state Department of Public Health, drowning is a leading cause of death among young children, both here and nationally, with backyard pools posing the highest risk for children under the age of 5.
And for children ages 1 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.
This 4-year-old’s death should put us all on notice, and heighten our awareness, especially when supervising young children.
That was the message conveyed by a former Olympic gold medalist in the wake of last summer’s spate of drownings.
“I implore, I literally beg parents to get off their damn phone and watch their kids,” three-time U.S. gold medalist swimmer Rowdy Gaines, now vice president of development for the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, told the Boston Herald.
“Parents have to be that first line of defense,” he said.
Parents and other supervising adults must literally have their heads on a swivel, especially in a pool crowded with individuals of varying swimming abilities.
As that Brookline Police release warned, a drowning can happen in a matter of seconds.
While backyard pools pose the most serious safety risk, our state-run beaches and pools aren’t immune to water-related accidents.
But unlike last summer, finding qualified lifeguards for publicly and privately operated venues has been an easier task this year.
The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees state-operated pools, ocean beaches and inland water resources, tries to hire about 600 lifeguards every year.
According to the department, the DCR already has hired 623 lifeguards this summer, compared to 580 last summer.
Officials say an increase in hourly pay and a bonus program, along with free lifeguard training, helped to draw more applicants for this season.
Even with that pay boost and other incentives, the DCR finds itself competing with community pools, aquatic centers, municipal recreation departments, beachfronts, as well as hotel chains, gyms, condo associations, summer camps, resorts, waterparks, YMCAs, and Boys & Girls Clubs for that pool of lifeguards.
That’s why, given all the water-related variables at play, we should heed the state Department of Public Health’s basic water and pool safety tips: Children should be supervised in and around water at all times, always swim with a buddy, select sites in public swimming areas that have lifeguards whenever possible, and swim only in designated areas.
Not going it all alone in the water would be our best advice.
Take it from Rowdy Gaines, who told the Herald: “I don’t swim alone, and I won gold medals in the Olympics.”
If it’s good enough for an Olympic gold medalist, it should be for the rest of us.