Jay Rosenthal knows first-hand the importance of teaching kids how to swim and then supervising them at all times near the water.
Rosenthal, who has spent years teaching swimming classes for the American Red Cross, was at a public pool in Trumbull County when a toddler drowned.
He was 13 at the time.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Bob Coupland
American Red Cross swim instructor Jay Rosenthal assists Louis Kondolios of Howland at the Red Cross Learn to Swim program for children held Monday at the Warren G. Harding High School swimming pool.
"That's really why I started teaching swimming, because of the impact that had on me," he explained. "I think it was basically a case of a 5-year-old who was told to keep an eye on the younger child. It doesn't take long for a child, or anyone, to drown. It's important to be aware of the dangers. It's important to take them seriously."
Recently, the topic of children and water safety has come to the forefront in the wake of a couple of close calls - including one in Weathersfield last week.
During a Fourth of July family gathering last Thursday at her grandmother's home, a 1-year-old Niles girl fell into an above-ground pool. She was rescued by a family member and transported by helicopter to Akron Children's Hospital.
"It was the most terrible feeling," said her mom, Jennifer Mayfield. "You can't be too careful. You can't look away for anything. If you have a pool, make sure there's a fence around it, make sure they can't get to it, make it as hard for them as possible. It was a horrible thing to see my child come out of the water like that. I was so thankful when she started breathing."
The American Red Cross reports that more than 200 children drown in backyard swimming pools each year. Many local municipalities have regulations governing residential swimming pools that address fencing, height allowances and permits residents are required to obtain.
Rosenthal was quick to point out that water safety shouldn't be limited to home swimming pools but should also include public pools, lakes, ponds and streams.
"Basically, anwhere there's water people should pay attention," he said.
Last year, a toddler fell into a family swimming pool in Hubbard Township but survived.
Last week, on July 3, an 11-year old boy was rescued from Mosquito Creek Reservoir's spillway by two men who saw rushing water pull him beneath the surface after he attempted to walk across the spillway's upper ledge.
However, the outcome is not always as positive. Last year, several people died due to drowning locally, including two at area lakes. In July, A 21-year-old drowned in Mosquito Creek Reservoir after he jumped into the lake from a boat. A 26-year-old Canton man was rescued by crews from Berlin Lake, but he later died. In Liberty, a 17-year-old boy drowned after he climbed a fence with some friends and jumped into the pool at the Logan Swimming and Tennis Club. A 3-year-old boy died in a swimming pool at his grandmother's South Side home. A 12-year-old Sharon, Pa., boy was recovered from the Shenango River in Brookfield.
"If you learn to swim, hopefully you can at least save yourself, so that's saving a life right there," Ronsenthal said. "Learn to swim. Make sure your kids learn to swim. Then watch them when they're swimming, boating or anytime they're near the water. You have to supervise them. It can happen so fast and they're gone. People need to be aware of that and pay attention."
Area zoning inspectors said they have no problem when it comes to addressing in-ground pool or permanent above-ground pool regulations with residents.
"But so many above-ground pools are portable, meaning you can move them from place to place, take them down and put them back up," said Al Morar, Braceville zoning inspector. "They, according to Ohio Revised Code, fall outside local zoning laws."
Morar said several years ago he adopted a policy in Braceville asking people to comply with their homeowners insurance policies.
"Most insurance policies have requirements that we can't enforce through zoning laws," he said. "Once people find out what those are likely to do what they need to do to protect themselves and their homes."
He said all swimming pools require permits in Braceville. Permits are $10.
"The thing is that no matter what the requirement, it's important to be wise and do what's best to protect yourself and everyone else," he said. "Make sure your pool is secure. Make sure it's fenced in. Just use good common sense."