Local child safety experts urge caution after Olympian’s daughter drowns

OKLAHOMA CITY - After Olympian Bode Milller's 19-month-old daughter drowned in a backyard pool, local experts are offering ways to prevent future tragedy.

The little girl was at a friend's house with her mother when she wandered outside and into the pool.

"If everybody's there, then they think everybody's watching," said Laura Gamino with Safe Kids Oklahoma City Metro. "Then, it ends up that nobody is watching."

Gamino works for the local branch of the Safe Kids Worldwide.

According to the organization, nearly 800 children die of drowning every year. In fact, it is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4.

Sadly, many of those cases are happening so fast that no one notices until it's too late.

"The thing about drowning is it's very sudden and silent," Gamino  said. "It's not going to be splashing and asking for help."

Gamino said, once you spot a child in water, you should immediately rescue them and start CPR while calling 911.

Unfortunately, in the case of Miller's daughter - as happens far too often - the young girl didn't make it.

Safe Kids Worldwide said there are steps you can take ,like installing a pool fence, to help prevent future tragedies.

"Four feet high, self latching, this is very important," Gamino said. "The other important thing is take the stairs away when using above-ground pools. That way children cannot get in there when no one else is around."

They also hand out a book called 'Clifford Takes a Swim.'

"Really teaches children to never swim alone and use a water watcher," Gamino said.

A "water watcher" is any adult or parent who can watch children free from distractions like phones, food or friends for 15-minute shifts.

Gamino recommends wearing a fun hat or lanyard to designate that you are the water watcher.

"The more bold and zany you can do it, the kids are going to like it better and that way you just do it for 15 minutes to watch the children," she said.

Gamino said watching the children in shifts helps allow everyone to have a good time and keep from getting distracted.

"If there's water, somebody needs to be watching the water and making sure that nobody gets in," she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "touch supervision" for inexperienced swimmers, meaning they are never more than an arm's length away.

Gamino also said just because your child has taken swimming lessons doesn't mean they are in the clear.

Safe Kids Worldwide urges parents to make sure their children develop five water survival skills:

  • step or jump into water over his/her head and return to the surface
  • float or tread water for one minute
  • turn around in a full circle and find an exit from the water
  • swim 25 yards to the exit
  • exit from the water without using the ladder