NAPLES, Fla. — A call for all of us to pay closer attention to children around the water as a vigil was held in Naples.
The event featured butterflies, symbols of souls, as a way to remember those lost to drowning and to commit to keeping the tragedy from happening again.
Folks gather to remember the young lives cut short by drowning. Last year, 98 children drowned in Florida, the highest number in the state since 2010. The father of drowning victims spoke about it.
“You know we hear the number 98. Yes, it’s a big number. One is too many," Paul DeMello said.
DeMello lost his twins twelve years ago after he received a call from the twins' mother. She was upset and it made it difficult for him to understand the words in her frantic screams.
“I made out what she said. The boys were found in the backyard swimming pool faced down and I screamed too and I fell to the ground," he said.
DeMello will never forget that day — January 16th — their twins, Joshua and Christian, drowned. He said there have been thousands of other Joshua's and Christian's in Florida.
A local pediatrician said kids are generally attracted to water and there's no typical "profile" of a child drowning victim.
"It doesn’t matter what gender or what race," Dr. Todd Vedder said. "If they make it to the water and there are not adult eyes on them and there are no barriers in place to stop them from getting there. They will grow.”
The doctor said you can take measures to keep your kids safe, like the ABCs of drowning prevention, especially in a state like Florida with backyard pools, beaches, canals, and lakes that children have access to.
As butterflies were released for those 98 children who drowned, parents like DeMello hope they serve as a reminder of the importance of water safety.