Granger Smith, the popular country music star, suffered a heartbreaking loss when his 3-year-old son, River, drowned in the family swimming pool. The warning signs of a child in trouble in water, aren’t what you think, according to health experts.
Key Tips to Prevent Drownings
Learn life-saving skills: Everyone should know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through the water) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Fence it off: Install a four–sided isolation fence, with self–closing and self–latching gates, around backyard swimming pools. This can help keep children away from the area when they aren’t supposed to be swimming. Pool fences should completely separate the house and play area from the pool.
Make life jackets a must: Make sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers too.
Be on the look out: When kids are in or near water (including bathtubs), closely supervise them at all times. Because drowning happens quickly and quietly, adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, and using alcohol or drugs.
“Drowning in this country remains one of the leading causes of accidental death in children and affects adults, as well,” says Dr. Michael Boniface, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine physician.
On average, more than 10 people die from drowning each day, mostly children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Boniface says drowning usually doesn’t look how people expect it to. There isn’t usually the splashing and screaming you see in movies,” he notes.
“In most cases, you don’t see a struggle,” Boniface explains. “You just see somebody under the water or floating face down.”
That means a window of only few seconds exists to watch for signs that a child is struggling in the water–and they are subtle.
Drowning people won’t wave their arms because their arms instinctively push down to try and get their heads above water.
And a drowning person is unable to make any sound, so if a child is noticeably quiet, that’s a red flag,” he says.
The most important thing a parent with small children can do is take steps to prevent a drowning. That means limiting alcohol, fencing off a pool and keeping an eye on kids in the water.
“This involves close, constant adult supervision – somebody watching the water at all times,” Boniface says.
Granger Smith and wife Amber both announced the death to his fans in an Instagram post last month.
“I have to deliver unthinkable news,” Granger Smith wrote. “We lost our youngest son, River Kelly Smith, following a tragic accident and despite doctors’ best efforts, he was unable to be revived.”
“Amber and I made the decision to say our last goodbyes and donate his organs so that other children will be given a second chance at life,” the “Backroad Song” singer wrote.
Granger and Amber have been married since 2010. They are also the parents of son Lincoln Monarch, 5, and daughter London, 7.
Children between the ages of one and four have the highest drowning rates, according to the CDC. Most deaths occur in family swimming pools and account for one-third of all deaths for children that age.
“Riv was special,” Smith wrote. “Everyone that met him knew that immediately. The joy he brought to our lives cannot be expressed and his light will be forever in our hearts.”
“If there are words to say more, I cannot find them in this moment,” Granger concluded. “Love the ones close to you. There has never been a more difficult moment for us than this.”
Celebrities are far from immune to such family tragedies.
Last year, Olympic skier Bode Miller’s 19-month-old daughter Emeline Grier Miller, also drowned in a family pool.
“They were at a neighbor’s house, talking to the neighbors inside, and somehow the little girl made her way to the backyard pool,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi told People.
“She was only missing for just a short amount of time, and Mom turned and was looking for her and didn’t see her right next to her,” he added.
“Mom went straight to the backyard to where the pool was. The child was in the pool. The mom pulled out the little girl and they started CPR immediately.”
“Kids are drawn to the water… Most kids don’t have any fear of the water,” Concialdi said. “They see it as playtime and they just want to jump in and swim around and unfortunately, children do drown without a sound. There is no yelling or screaming.
“When a child jumps in the water and that child doesn’t know how to swim, they panic under water. It is extremely tragic,” he said.
Miller also released a statement to fans on social media.
“We are beyond devastated. Our baby girl, Emmie, passed away yesterday. Never in a million did we expect to experience a pain like this.”
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