Swim Lessons for Kids, Pool Safety Urged as Summer Season Nears

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(POTOMAC, Md.) -- When Clay Metro was 3, he nearly died after falling into a pool.

“My husband and I had gone for a run. We were at the beach at my dad’s house by his community pool,” Clay’s mother, Laura Metro of Potomac, Md., told ABC News Wednesday. “Some friends were watching Clay....We believe that Clay tripped on a towel and fell into the deep end. There were about eight or so other people at the pool and no one saw.”

Metro said that as she and her husband returned, her daughter ran out of the pool area, saying, “I think Clay died.”

Clay had been under the water for just a few minutes.

“He was blue. He had no life,” Metro said. “As bad as you think it was, it was worse.”

On Wednesday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission pleaded with parents as the Memorial Day weekend and the start of the summer season approached, to teach children how to swim and to put fences around pools.

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According to the commission, an average of 290 kids under age 5 drown each year. And more than half drown in their family pool. The largest group of victims are just 2 years old.

As Metro and her family waited for the paramedics to arrive, a friend performed CPR on Clay. He was flown by Medivac to a children’s hospital in Wilmington, Del., where he remained in a coma for two days.

Two years later, at the age of 5, Clay is mostly recovered with a few lingering effects — and Metro is now an advocate for pool safety.

Inez Tenenbaum, the commission’s chair, said that simple steps, such as never leaving a child unsupervised near a pool, making sure children learn how to swim, putting fences around pools and learning CPR, could save lives.

The recommendations and warnings are not new but unfortunately the numbers have remained steady.

“Children are drowning,” Tenenbaum said. “It is silent. It’s quick. Someone is at the bottom of the pool and they have been there for a few minutes and you can’t resuscitate them unless you know CPR on the spot.”

Metro said that even though Clay had taken two semesters of swim classes before the incident, he had not learned how to float on his back. She said parents should make sure children learn how to float during swim lessons.

“The bottom line is, he fell in and he sank,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of the dangers. I didn’t know what drowning looked like. I didn’t know it was as fast as it is.”

Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones was underwater for about 30 seconds and nearly became a statistic at the age of 5.

“They had to pull me out and resuscitate me, and my mom got me into swimming lessons really quickly after,” he said.

Now the 2008 gold medal winner says he is trying to inspire and teach children about the importance of knowing how to swim through USA Swimming’s Make a Splash.

“There’s a simple cure: Getting swim lessons is the answer to drownings. It’s just like riding a bike,” he said. “You never forget how to do it....Swimming is fun.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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