Important summer safety interruption: Drowning doesn’t look like drowning. This piece by a maritime safety expert (a former New Orleans Coast Guide helicopter search-and-rescue swimmer) gives you a checklist of what drowning actually looks like. Hint: Not the way it does in the movies.

Once I got a hint of how quickly something horrible can happen at a backyard pool. A friend was sitting with her legs in the water, next to her two-year-old son. She was looking over her shoulder, talking to someone behind her, as her little boy leaned forward and (I think deliberately) fell in. It was like a toothpick piercing an olive. He went straight down, straight to the bottom — he was too young to even give the clues in Mario Vittone’s story. Another mom at the BBQ said, “Um, is that your son in the water?” She turned back, looked, screamed a curse, leaped in and yanked him up. He was under for maybe 20 seconds. He coughed and sputtered and then was absolutely fine. He didn’t even cry. But the fact that he just slipped quietly under, with no flailing or splashing, was haunting.


  1. laura k July 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

    I remember when my baby brother, who was probably about 2, fell into a pool at a bbq. It was the same thing: just a slow sink to the bottom, and yes, it was haunting and kind of terrifying. Luckily, there were about a million people around and my uncle and he was underwater for all of about 30 seconds. And here I thought swimming was instinctive in the little ones.

  2. Jill Davidson July 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    This just happened to an adult at the lake where my parents live, in the cove where their house is. A man drowned, out of the blue, in front of his family. Really horrible; glad to see this info getting out there.

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