Darla Gambill sat in the late morning sun in Howard Amon Park on Monday with children splashing in a wading pool behind her and recounted the worst day of her life -- the day her 2-year-old daughter drowned in her swimming pool.
Gambill of Kennewick lost her daughter Brooklynne on June 28, 2009, when the little girl climbed out of bed and somehow made it out of her parents' locked house in Medford, Ore., into the backyard while they were asleep.
"We had all the safety precautions we could have," Gambill said. "It was a fluke accident. ... I should have been picking out her wedding dress, not her burial dress."
She never wants another parent to feel the horror of finding a child face down in the water, so when she moved to the Tri-Cities about two months ago, she contacted the Kadlec Foundation and asked how she could work with it and the Benton Franklin Safe Kids Coalition to tell parents how to prevent drowning accidents.
"Don't turn your back," she said. "Don't answer your phone. Don't read a magazine. Don't drink alcohol. I want to see that no more children drown. It only takes a second."
Mark Allen, a member of the Safe Kids Coalition and a former longtime rescue diver, said drownings are preventable if parents take precautions around pools.
A child can drown in 20 seconds. And it takes just one inch of water for someone to drown.
"It happens really fast, and it's quiet," Allen said.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 300 children under age 5 drown in swimming pools and spas each year. Another 3,200 end up in emergency rooms being treated for submersion injuries.
Among the tips offered are:
w Teach children to swim.
w Never leave a child unwatched or unsupervised near water.
w Know basic water safety skills, including CPR in case of a water emergency.
w Install a four-sided barrier around a pool or hot tub that includes a self-closing and self-latching gate.
w Use pool alarms and covers, especially if a house is the fourth side of a barrier preventing access to a pool.
Allen said when it comes to swimming in the region's lakes or rivers, wearing a life jacket always is crucial.
Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel agreed that life jackets would have saved the lives of two to three of the victims who drown in his jurisdiction each year.
"It's mainly because they're not wearing life jackets," he said. "I have never pulled someone out of the water who drowned wearing a life jacket."