The recent drowning of a baby in the bathtub in Onslow County is shedding light on just how big of a problem it is and has child advocates emphasizing awareness and education.
Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said the tragic drowning in February where a seven month-old girl died when her father stepped out of the bathroom for less than a minute was not a crime because the father had no intent to leave the child. Hudson says the father just lost focus.
Unfortunately, what happened in Onslow County isn't uncommon. Statistics show drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages one to four. It is second only to vehicle crashes for children up to 19. And like what happened in Onslow County the majority of the drownings occurred in the home, in the bathtub.
Dr. Sue Stelmach is chairman of the Child Protection and Fatality Prevention team in Onslow County. All counties have a similar task force. Part of their job is to review all child deaths, which she says they'll do with the recent drowning. Dr. Stelmach says an explosion in drownings and near drownings here four years ago, 14 in all, lead to the water safety initiative...an educational effort on safe water habits. "The season subsequent to that we actually had no fatalities that were water related so we felt like we made a good impact. Of course there has been some recurrence again and we're concerned enough to re-initiate our programs again."
Dr. Stelmach anticipates this latest drowning will result in an emphasis on bathtub safety. "We need to include really safe handling in the home as well not just beach and pool safety."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends constant supervision of infants and young children in the bathtub or any body of water. And its that message parents and officials are hoping to stress to avoid another tragedy like the one in Onslow County. Parent Gina Dunn says, "Leaving a child alone first and foremost in the bathtub shouldn't be done." D.A. Hudson adds, "You just gotta stay focused with young children 24-7. You just can't turn your head."
While it may sound like simple advice, it can go a long way in preventing another tragedy like the one in Onslow County.
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