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'It's on the rise': Recent string of drownings prompt water safety campaign in Collier County

Posted at 7:25 PM, Jun 07, 2024

NAPLES, Fla — After two recent drownings and three other close calls, a coalition in Collier County is partnering up on a mission to help people stay safe. With the summer season kicking off, water safety experts at NCH say drownings are on the rise.

On Friday, healthcare leaders gathered at the NCH North Naples Hospital to deliver an urgent message on drowning safety for children. This meeting comes just a week after two tragic cases shocked the community.

Last week in Ave Maria, a 6-year-old girl died at a waterpark after jumping into a pool unsupervised. Just days earlier, paramedics pronounced a Naples father dead after he attempted to rescue his son with autism who had wandered off into a nearby pond.

“We don’t want to see another family go through this,” said Paula DiGrigoli, the Community Impact Director at NCH, who organized the event.

DiGrigoli emphasized that these cases of drowning are tragic but preventable through what her coalition calls "layers of protection." She advises parents to teach their children how to swim, use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, and supervise their children closely.

"The water wings, the inflatable ones, are not the correct ones because the children can remove them," DiGrigoli explained.

DiGrigoli also urged parents to check nearby bodies of water first if their child goes missing. She stressed the importance of adding physical barriers if there is a swimming pool at home and learning CPR.

According to the Florida Department of Health, drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 4 in Collier County.

There was a 28% increase in drowning deaths reported in this age group in 2022 compared to 2019, according to the CDC.

Overall drowning deaths are on the rise in the United States, following decades of decline, a new CDC study shows.

This statistic highlights a tragic reality that families need to be aware of, according to Jorge Aguilera, the Deputy Chief of EMS for North Collier Fire.

“We have residential pools on almost every corner. You turn around and there’s a house with a pool. We have canals, we have lakes, we have ponds, we have retention areas – we have all kinds of water hazards in this community," Aguilera said.

He added, "There’s a good reason why we need to be vigilant, educated, and trained for all those emergencies.”