Brother’s quick thinking saves toddler from swimming tragedy

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 18, 2007

Two-year-old Colby Harris waited until his family members werepreoccupied to make his first inexperienced plunge into the familyswimming pool.

Fortunately for Colby, 6-year-old Cameron Harris, his brother,was able to pull the adventurous toddler to the side of the pool inthe May 26 incident at the Holloway home on Highway 583.

“He’s our little hero,” said grandmother Beverly Holloway. “He’svery protective of his brother.”

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Holloway, Cameron, Colby and the children’s mother, AngeliqueHarris were at home on a Saturday when Cameron decided he wanted togo for a swim. The others went outside to watch over him.

Colby, who had never shown any interest in the pool and hadnever been in it, indicated he might like to go for a swim so hismother went inside to get his flotation suit, Holloway said.

Cameron was gathering toys near the pool, she said, so she leftColby at the chairs to enter the pool house to retrieve anitem.

“When I came out of the pool house I saw Colby jump in,”Holloway said. “I yelled ‘Get him! Get him!’ and Cameron jumped in.He brought him to the edge where I was able to get a hold on himand pull him out.”

Holloway said people don’t realize how quickly a child canendanger himself when the opportunity presents itself.

“It’s amazing how you can turn your head for a split second anda child can be in the water,” she said.

According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, drowning is theleading cause of death reported in children under the age of 3. Itis also the second leading cause of death for people ages 5 through44 and the third-leading cause of unintentional death in the UnitedStates.

About 300 children under 5 years of age drown in residentialswimming pools annually, according to the U.S. Consumer ProductSafety Commission. The organization further estimates that hospitalemergency room treatment is required for another 2,300 childrenunder 5 who were submerged in residential pools. Sixty to 90percent of drownings among children under the age of 4 occur inresidential pools and more than half of those occur at home.

Holloway is the only member of the family who can’t swim, soColby is not allowed outside when they’re home alone, even thoughCameron has been swimming since he was 3 years old.

Experts say it’s a good policy to follow. The CPSC advises neverto allow a young child near the the pool outside the presence of anadult. The organization also advises to appoint a “designatedwatcher” to protect young children from pool accidents duringsocial gatherings. Too often, they say, adults can becomepreoccupied and assume someone else is watching the children.

Other tips provided by the CPSC include:

* If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count inpreventing death or disability.

* Do not use flotation devices as a substitute forsupervision.

* Learn CPR.

* Remove toys from in and around the pool when it is not in use.Toys can attract young children to the pool.

* No jumping or diving in the shallow area of the pool.

* Teach children to swim.

“There’s no magic age for a child’s first swimming lesson,” JayHoecker, a pediatrics specialist at Mayo Clinic wrote in a safetyarticle for the hospital. “Readiness depends on a child’s comfortin the water. Most children can start learning to swim about thetime they learn to ride a bike, often at age 5 or 6.”

Grandfather Billy Holloway said he was glad the family followedsafety tips and believes they helped Cameron save his brother’slife. He was in Angola, Africa, working in the oil fields at thetime of the incident.

“They could have been calling me to come home for a funeral,” hesaid. “As it is, we have a hero in the family.”