PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The number of drowning deaths in Arizona has increased slightly year over year, 3 On Your Side has learned.

According to the YMCA of the Valley and the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, there have been 20 drowning deaths in the state from January through May. Six of the victims were children. Last year over the same time period, there were 15 drowning deaths, including three pediatric victims and one teenager.

Jackie Gizzi, the executive director of risk management for the Valley of the Sun YMCA says it is unclear why the number of fatal drownings has gone up, but she says these deaths are preventable.

"Watching kids is extremely important, which sounds extremely simple but we have technology that we get distracted by, reading a book, going to answer the phone quickly. It all is a distraction," Gizzi said. "It seems like it's 10 seconds, but it really can be a few minutes and that’s when we’re seeing drowning incidents occur."

Nationally, drowning deaths among children are also increasing. According to a new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, pool or spa-related fatal drowning rates for children younger than 15 gradually increased between 2015 and 2017, averaging 379 deaths per year. The CPSC data shows the majority of drowning incidents happened at residential pools. The report also shows there are an estimated 6,700 non-fatal pool or spa related drowning injuries treated at hospitals annually.

“Water safety vigilance remains as important as ever, especially in light of ongoing public health concerns and community restrictions related to COVID-19,” said Robert Adler, the acting chairman of the CPSC. “Our latest report confirms that most child drownings take place at home during the summer months. This year, with more families spending time at home, the delayed opening of many public pools, and a pause on many traditional group swimming lessons, I urge everyone to take critical safety steps to reverse the upward trend in fatal child drownings.”

YMCA's ABC's of Water Safety:

A - Adult supervision; ensure there is a designated water watcher at all times

B – Barriers; door alarm and pool fence with latch

C – Classes; swim lessons for children and CPR classes for adults

The YMCA says children should start swimming lessons as early as six months old.

"It's a really great bonding time for the parent and the child, but it also starts to give them some really basic comfortable fundaments that they can do in the water so when they are able to swim independently they've already had some baseline skills," Gizzi said.

The Valley of the Sun YMCA is re-starting swimming lessons on June 15 with new social distancing guidelines.

Find more information on the Valley of the Sun YMCA here: valleyymca.org

 

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