As I reported the other day, a 9-year-old-girl fell in the Provo River near Bridal Veil Falls on Monday and was swept downstream away from the helping hands of nearby family members. She was found down-river near Nunn’s Park submerged against a rock, and it is believed that she was in the cold water for upward of 40 minutes before she was rescued. Unfortunately, doctors at Primary Children’s Medical Center were unable to revive her and she passed away yesterday. She has been identified as Caitlin Buchkowski of Aurora, Colorado.
Now, area residents are questioning the safety, or lack thereof, in the area where the girl fell into the river – at that spot there is a steep drop-off into cold water which can inhibit one’s ability to recover and self-rescue. Some are calling for barriers or other safety devices to protect those who visit the popular recreation area. The land along the river stretch in question is owned by Utah County but when asked about safety issues, County Parks director Jim McMullin flatly refused to answer any questions. Instead, he referred all questions on the subject to the public relations office of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has assembled a list of water safety tips for children, but I think there are lessons here for everyone:
Teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT mean your child is safe in water. Knowledge is a powerful tool for combating water tragedies. Knowing how and where children drown, as well as the concrete steps you can take to avoid danger, may make a life-and-death difference for your family. To keep your family safe, remember these tips:
• All caregivers should learn CPR.
• Never leave a toy in or around a pool.
• Make sure there is a telephone by the pool in case of an emergency.
• If you use an inflatable or plastic pool, make sure you dump the water out of the pool after each use and turn the pool upside down when finished with it.
• Install a fence at least four-foot high around all four sides of the pool. Pool covers are not a substitute for 4-sided fencing.
• Never leave children alone in or near water, even for a moment. An adult should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
• Make sure pool gates self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
• Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook – a long pole with a hook on the end – and life preserver).
• Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
• Teach children to swim when they’re ready, usually after age 4.
• Use a barrier like a fence to keep children away from pools or other bodies of water.
• Empty and turn over all water containers after you use them.
• Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water.
• Teach children never to swim alone.
• If your child is found floating in water start Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.
• If your child is missing check surrounding bodies of water immediately.
And again, please remember that all water dangers are increased as water temperatures decrease because of the risk of hypothermia.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.