Posted Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

By Tara Merrigan

A Cedar Park toddler drowned and four other children in Central Texas nearly drowned over three days last week, Dell Children's Medical Center officials said Monday.

"There was a rash of drowning incidents over the past weekend," said Pat Crocker, chief of emergency medicine at Dell Children's. "These events are just tragic, and most of them are preventable."

A 17-month-old drowned in the swimming pool at his Cedar Park home on Friday night, according to the Travis County sheriff's department.

Officials believe the death was probably accidental, but are awaiting investigators' final conclusions.

The four near-drownings occurred in community and private pools between Thursday and Saturday.

The Austin area has seen 18 drownings or near-drownings so far this year, a Dell Children's official said. Last year saw 49 drownings or near-drownings in the area, 11 more than 2010.

Crocker urged adults to be extra vigilant when supervising children near water.

"One of the biggest myths about childhood drowning is that there's going to be some screaming and splashing and call for help, and you're going to have a chance to help, intervene and save the child," he said. "In reality, children who drown who are 5 and under just usually slip under the water, it's a silent event, and they're found on the bottom of the pool."

Tareka Wheeler, Safe Kids Austin coordinator at Dell Children's Medical Center, called drowning a "silent killer," adding that adults should approach watching children near water with the mentality, "As a water guardian, I am nothing else."

Crocker said that adults should teach children to swim as early as two or three years of age. He also said that children should not swim alone and stressed the importance of administering CPR after a drowning child has been pulled from the water.

Contact Tara Merrigan at 445-3702