Orange County officials urge steps to prevent drowning

Swimming pool season is here and with it, a reminder of how dangerous the water can be, especially for children.

Last year, the Orange County Fire Authority reported five fatal drownings involving children under the age of 5. There were 31 near drownings involving the same age group.

Fourteen-year-old Girl Scout Ava Kopecky saw one incident happen.

"He was struggling in the water, and I just knew that I had to do something or else he was going to drown and I couldn't just watch that," said Ava.

She saved a 2-year-old boy from drowning that day. Her story was part of a news conference held by the Orange County Drowning Prevention Task Force.

Posters on the side of Orange County Transportation Authority buses remind people that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in kids under the age of 5. Julie Lopiccolo knows this too well.

Her son Jasper died five years ago while at a pool with a babysitter.

"She had taken him to a neighbor's house where there was an unprotected pool," said Lopiccolo. "And I knew in that moment I would never see my son alive again."

She started the Jasper Ray Foundation, raising awareness and prevention to drowning and child safety.

One of the things the foundation and the task force encourages is the need for a designated water watcher anytime children are in the water.

"That adult should be within arm's reach to give touch supervision of those children," said Dr. Ted Heyming from Children's Hospital of Orange County.

The task force is stressing water safety this season. In addition to water watchers, they encourage people to put fences around their pools and sign up for swimming lessons.

"It's fun to be in the water, especially around summertime, but it's hugely important that you're always aware of who's in the water with you," said Courtney Mathewson, an Olympic gold medalist in water polo who also teaches swimming lessons.
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