SEATTLE – When it comes to drowning, many parents and kids might picture a Hollywood-like scene, complete with lots of splashing and screaming.
But the truth is that a drowning is usually rather quiet and often happens surprisingly close to other people, who do not realize what is happening.
“It’s important that people realize it’s not Hollywood, it’s not noisy, it’s not yelling for help,” said Dr. Linda Quan, an emergency physician at Seattle Children’s, who is an expert in drowning.
With most drownings, the victim quickly struggles to keep his or her head and nose above water. That means they do not have the energy to splash or scream. It can only take seconds for the victim to slip below the surface and out of sight.
The drowning rate in Washington state is higher than the national average. To help reduce drowning, experts recommend life jackets – and that is not all.
“Flotation is not a substitute for supervision,” said Matt Richardson, assistant aquatics center director at Southwest Pool in West Seattle. “We’ll have parents wrap a noodle around the children and walk away.”
Richardson encourages adults to always assign a designated water watcher – someone to keep an eye on kids in the pool or lake at all times. They even encourage giving the water watcher a special placard to remind them. “I will not leave the area without a replacement,” the placard says.
The water watcher should not be texting or preparing meals. They should keep an eye on the water at all times because it only takes seconds for a drowning victim to slip out of sight.
Kevin Sayson learned that lesson the hard way. He was paddle boarding with his older brother, Tyrone Fabroa, a couple years ago at a Kirkland lake. His brother fell off his board, which seemed fairly normal at the time.
“It just looked like he was treading water, swimming back to shore,” Sayson said. “But obviously not.”
By the time anyone realized Fabroa was drowning, it was too late. His brother passed away.
“I didn’t know what it looks like,” Sayson said. “And now I know firsthand.”
Fabroa was wearing a self-inflating life jacket, which was not inflated. Sayson is now passionate about educating people about the importance of life jackets. His family is teaming up with Seattle Children’s to hold a life-jacket drive on August 3 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Marina Park Pavilion along Kirkland’s waterfront.
To learn more about water safety, Seattle Children’s offers some helpful links: