Water safety symposium seeks to prevent drownings

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:

Trina Sutor was enjoying the family pool on a beautiful day. She stepped away to put on a movie inside while Blake, her son, was with her splashing around, having a good time.

In the next minute, her son was struggling in the water, on the verge of drowning.

The experience taught her it only takes a couple of seconds to die in the water. “Yeah, I did tear up for part of it,” Trina said. “He spent 42 days in ICU. Sixteen days on a breathing machine.”

But today, Trina and now 10-year-old Blake came to Southwest Florida’s first water safety symposium, to share their story to business leaders on Fort Myers Beach.

The water safety symposium commenced with a mock drowning. Nearby lifeguards identified the scene, rescuing and calling for help.

Then, aeromedical services swooped in heroically.

“It was hard because I’ve known the harsh reality of what the actual situation looks like,” Trina said, “and that was pretty close.”

But Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Matthew Love said showing hotel owners, marina managers, apartment supervisors — anyone who might be around when tragedy strikes — about the safety process is key because they can act quickly.

“Usually the fastest people there are the bystanders,” Matthew said. “We realize there’s a time between when the incident happens and the paramedics arrive, that times crucial.”

Those seconds were crucial for Blake.

“My husband started CPR,” Trina said, referencing an emergency procedure used to restore blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest. “I believe whole heatedly why he’s still here today.”

Drowning is a serious problem in the United States, ranked fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death.

For young kids like Blake, it is even more dire. Children from 1-years-old to 4-years-old have the highest drowning rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Giving every child a chance with layers of protection near the water, Trina said, such as maintaining the pool, acquiring Coast Guard approved life jackets and swimming lessons is critical starting at a young age.

“Our mission as a family is that no family ever stands in our shoes,” Trina said.

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