Harris County officials stress water safety for kids ahead of Memorial Day weekend
Jenny Bennett and her husband thought their son was upstairs, playing with his sisters in their bedroom. But they came downstairs to find him outside, floating face down in their backyard pool.
Four days later, the 18-month-old was declared brain dead.
“We didn’t think this would happen to us,” Bennett said about her son’s death in 2016. “We were good parents, we loved our children. I didn’t know about drowning.”
With Memorial Day approaching, Bennett joined Harris County officials, including County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, on Thursday to raise awareness about how to keep kids and adults safe during water activities this summer.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children under the age of 4, officials said. In 2018, more than 90 children drowned to death in Texas, including 23 in the Houston area. So far in 2019, more than 20 kids have drowned across the state.
“Each and every person in our community can play a role in saving a child’s life,” Hidalgo said.
Officials advised families to:
Attend drowning prevention classes so children know what to do in case they fall into a body of water
Be more aware when near natural bodies of water, where water depth undercurrents are unknown
Assign a designated water-watcher at pool parties
Wear a Coast Guard-certified life jacket that fits properly
“If you’re child is 13 or under, we will cite you if your children are not wearing life jackets,” Gonzalez said. He also stressed that “water activities and alcohol do not mix.”
After losing her 3-year-old son, Judah, to drowning, Christi Brown was angry that she had never been exposed to water-safety information and training. So she started the Judah Brown Project.
The organizations hands out pamphlets with water-safety tips to pediatrician offices, teaches water-safety and -drowning prevention at school, provides scholarships for water-survival classes and provides low-cost CPR classes for kids and adults.
“We try to target areas that have children we know don’t get that information and the ability to pay for swim lessons,” Brown said, adding that lower-income neighborhoods often have less access to water-safety information and training.
Brown has a tattoo of her son’s footprint on her left shoulder, and of his hand print on her right shoulder.
“That way I can hug him whenever I miss him,” she said, gripping each shoulder with the opposite hand.