Articles Posted in Drowning Cases

boatingAt Michaels & Smolak, we’ve seen our share of drowning cases. Usually they involve children too young to know how to swim. In fact, besides car accidents, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 12 years old.

Cars have seat belts, and there are helmets for bikes, but what is there to protect children and others from the dangers of drowning? Life jackets you say? What child wants to wear those bulky things on the beach or near the pool? Enter “Kingii“.  It looks like a large bracelet.  It sports a rectangular pouch loaded with carbon dioxide. It weighs less than five ounces and is about the size of a smartphone.  It costs only $79.  In trouble in the water? Just tug on the bracelet and – voila – a CO2 cartridge inflates a hidden orange flotation device.  This device works well for both children and adults.

Check out this video to see how it works:

Today’s Syracuse Post Standard reported on a study published in the journal Pediatrics concluding that, in the U.S.A., a child dies in a portable pool every 5 days during the summer months. Ninety four percent of the victims are under 5.

Drowning is the second-leading cause of death among young children. (The first is car accidents). But why so many deaths in these cheap, shallow pools?

I can think of three:

pool with beachball.jpgSwimming pool season is almost here, which means lots of fun and relaxation for many New Yorkers who will finally get to “take in some rays” on the pool deck after an especially long, cold and snowy winter.

But today I had a grisly reminder of the dangers that lurk in pool areas. Two toddlers were pulled from a swimming pool at a Buffalo home on Easter Sunday. One of the boys, only 2 years old, somehow got under the pool’s solar cover. He was unresponsive when they pulled him from the water and is now in critical condition at Woman and Children’s Hospital. The other boy fared better — he was found on top of the pool cover and is in good condition. The boys were at a family Easter gathering at the home. Let’s hope and pray that the boy in critical condition makes a miraculous, full recovery.

As a parent, reading news stories like this one reminds me of all the nightmares I have ever had about something terrible befalling one of my children because, perhaps for only a second, I was distracted. I once I lost a 3-year old in Kennedy Airport! Fortunately, I found him after what seemed like an eternity, but probably was more like 2 minutes.

fishing.jpgLast week, on September 28, tragedy struck in Oswego. One fishermen died, another is in critical condition, and several others narrowly escaped death. The men were fishing near the Varick damn in the Oswego River in the City of Oswego.

Several dams, used to hold back water to generate electrical power, cross the Oswego River. The lower section of the river, where it empties into harbor, also offers great fishing. When the water is to be released, which causes a sudden rise in the river, a loud siren is supposed to sound to warn the fishers.

But did it sound? And did it sound at the right time?

IMG_1094.JPGThis photograph was taken at the Geneva, New York YMCA swimming pool last Friday, June 18. That big kid in the middle who looks a lot older than the others is me. The occasion was the last Friday evening swim outing of the school year for the Boys & Girls Club kids of Geneva. Every Friday after work during the spring months I take about 11 of them with me in a van to the YMCA pool where I teach them how to swim and to safely enjoy the water. Most of them have never been in the water before they came with me. Some of them stay with me for several years.

Why do I do it? Lots of reasons, really. Giving back to the community. Really caring about children (I have five myself!). Paying back a debt I owe to the world for being so damn lucky in life. But here’s another reason: To save lives.

You see, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children. And one demographic in particularly at risk. Which one? Take another look at the photo. Yes, mostly African American kids. As discussed in a recent ABC news report, black children drown at three times the rate of white children. This is because while 60% of white children can swim, only 30% of black kids can.

IMG_0628.JPGYesterday, as I have done just about every Wednesday this winter (and for the past few winters), I took a van full of Boys & Girls Club kids to the Geneva, New York municipal ice rink for a skate. I pick them up at the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva at 6:30, we skate till 8:15, and then I drive them home. I finish up about 9:00. I can pack about 11 kids in the large van. The kids, ages 5 through about 11, love it. These are kids who otherwise would never get a chance to skate. Most of them don’t have transportation to the rink. When Spring comes along, I take the same kids to the YMCA swimming pool. Otherwise, they wouldn’t learn to swim.

Here’s my law blog question for the day: What is my liability exposure as a volunteer? Does the law cut me any slack for being a good guy, or am I just as liable as anyone else if I accidently crash the van, or fail to properly supervise the kids, and cause them to get injured? If some of these kids and their parents were to bring a New York personal injury lawsuit against me for negligent driving or negligent supervision, what would happen to me?

I hate to admit it, but I am exposing myself to a lawsuit. The law in New York cuts me no slack at all. If I voluntarily agree to take these kids out and I negligently allow harm to befall them, their personal injury lawsuits against me will be valid. The fact that I was trying to give these kids a better life won’t count for squat!

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