A lifeguard watches over swimmers at the City of Raleigh's Optimist Park Pool. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -
The recent drowning death of a 6-year-old boy in Durham is highlighting the need to keep children safe when in or around water, even when a lifeguard is present.
Police said Jamarcus Graham, of Goldsboro, was found floating face down in a pool at the Brightleaf Club in Durham on Saturday. After being pulled from the pool, Jamarcus later died at Duke Medical Center.
Police said Jamarcus was at the pool with a guardian and was attending a pool party when the accident happened. Signs around the pool indicated there were no lifeguards on duty at the time.
With summer officially starting Saturday, Triangle area pools are bound to pack with people looking for relief from the heat. But officials urge that parents make sure their children are comfortable around the water and aware of its dangers, even if they've had swim lessons.
"You want to make sure your child is confident in the water and can get to safety," explained Terry Stroupe, the City of Raleigh aquatics director. "That takes at least two sets of lessons where they take some time to practice after the lessons ... it can take a couple of weeks."
Stroupe suggested, "Using that time in the bathtub, they need to understand how to hold their breath; and if they get into trouble, how to get themselves back to safety."
Stroupe said it is never too early to begin teaching kids how to swim and be safe in the water.
"We start as early as 6 months in our programs," Stroupe said. "But we see the majority of the kids coming into lessons between ages 3 and 5."
It's also never too late to learn, Stroupe said.
"Swimming is a life skill that every person should have. It doesn't matter what age you are, you should know how to swim." Stroupe said.
Even with a lifeguard on duty, a drowning can happen in seconds, so Stroupe said parents need to remain vigilant.
"Someone can easily slip under the water without any shout or cry or even calling for help," Stroupe said. "It can happen that easily."
With so many people in the pool -- especially at public pools -- parent Allan Ingall said, "There's too much here for just the lifeguards to look at. You have to keep an eye on them."
To promote the fact that swimming lessons save lives, the City of Raleigh participating in the world’s largest swimming lesson, where people around the globe will try to break the Guinness record for the most people around the world learning to swim at same time.