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World's Largest Swim Lesson at Renaissance Pointe YMCA, Friday.

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Trinity Johnson, 12, swims toward the surface after launching off the diving board at Northside Pool on Wednesday.

State agencies stress water safety for kids

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Instructors Leslie Konkler, top, and Tashanna Harris work with swimmers at the Renaissance Pointe YMCA on Friday, joining a national effort to set a record for largest swimming lesson.

– Nearly half of Indiana’s drowning victims this year were younger than 18.

With that in mind, the Indiana Department of Child Services and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources have teamed to try to make this summer as safe as possible for young Hoosier swimmers.

“Since children generally don’t have an awareness of the risks around water, it’s up to the adults who care for them to help keep them safe,” Mary Beth Bonaventura, child services director, said in a statement.

Twelve of the state’s 28 open-water drowning victims this year were younger than 18, according to Child Services, and during fiscal year 2012, eight children drowned.

On a national scale, the numbers are even worse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows about one-fifth of drowning victims were children younger than 14.

Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, according to the CDC.

Additionally, for every child who drowns, five others receive emergency care for non-life-threatening injuries from being underwater too long. For the DNR, the most practical solution is making sure children stay afloat.

“The use of a properly fitted life jacket is the only proven method that is certain to reduce the number of Indiana drownings,” Lt. Kenton Turner, boating law administrator for DNR, said in a news release.

Officials don’t want to ruin anyone’s summer fun with the morbid rates of child deaths from water-related activities, but they do want to make parents aware of hazards and solutions related to water safety.

Danny East, director of the DNR’s law enforcement division, said he wants Hoosiers to enjoy the state’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs but put safety at the forefront when doing so.

Ways to prevent child injuries or deaths around water include constant supervision, since a child could suddenly go underwater.

Setting up barriers, whether they keep a child out of deep water or block access to a pool, is another way to increase child safety around water, according to the DNR.

Swimming lessons, life jackets and swimming where lifeguards are present are other effective ways to make sure a day at the lake or pool doesn’t turn tragic.

“We lose children each year because they don’t understand the dangers associated with water,” Bonaventura said.