For Roger and Carol Fennell of Phoenix, tragedy struck twice.
Six years ago the Fennells' 18-month-old son Matthew drowned in his grandmother's swimming pool.
Three weeks ago their 11-month-old daughter Danielle also drowned in grandma's pool.
The grandmother, Loretta Mossberg, was not at home when Matthew fell in, but knew the precautions to take to prevent it from happening again. She had a fence around the pool. As a hospital employee she had been trained in CPR. The kids were in the house, and the arcadia door was locked.
Mossberg was babysitting for her daughter the day Danielle drowned; the kids were in the living room, or so she thought. Danielle crawled through the doggy door and fell into the pool.
She found her floating in the pool, called 911, tried to administer CPR ...
Danielle had been in the water too long for CPR to be effective. Later that night, the Fennells pulled the plug on their baby's respirator in the trauma unit at St. Joseph's hospital in Phoenix.
And lived the horror of losing a child to the dangerous waters of Arizona.
Arizona, a desert, has a drowning rate that is among the highest in the country, despite the laws regulating pool safety. As of June 8, Phoenix authorities reported 33 pool-related drowning and near-drowning incidents within the metropolitan area. Those figures do not include the rest of the state.
And summer has just begun.
I happened to be home the day Danielle drowned. Her grandmother, Mossberg, and my mother had been very good friends. My family had been lounging around that day, vegetating indoors, away from the summer heat.
Then we heard the sirens.
We ran next door and saw Mossberg performing CPR on Danielle at poolside. The paramedics rushed in behind us and the police requested our cooperation in handling the half-dozen Shar-peis surrounding the baby, barking loudly.
The story, as I heard it, is all too familiar when it comes to drowning incidents in Arizona.
"I only turned my back for a second," Mossberg said. "I can't go through this again!" she cried, burying her head on my shoulder.
It only took a few seconds.
The day of the funeral I watched Channel 10's special report concerning water safety. It seems like each year a new slogan or catch phrase comes about when the media tries to halt the rising statistics in crime, safety, or drownings. This year it happens to be: "WYCAW!"
Watch Your Children Around Water!
One man spoke about a near incident he had just last year. His baby survived - barely. His philosophy is simple. He doesn't answer the phone when his kids are in the water. He never turns his back. He doesn't go to the bathroom and someone else changes the baby's diapers. His attention is tuned into the activity in the pool. His vigil does not let up until everyone is out of the water.
Pretty basic, huh?
The only advice that seems to work more than building fences or increasing media and commercial coverage is to never take anything for granted. Pampers will not act as a suitable floatation device. Neither do the little floaties parents seem to place on toddlers' arms. Never assume that the gate to the swimming pool is closed and locked. The Fennells thought the gate was closed when their kids drowned.
Phoenix police investigated the scene of the accident at the time of the drowning. They looked at possible negligence charges against Mossberg. Then they found out the family had lost two children to drowning.
They closed the case and labeled it accidental death. What punishment can you add to a family who has already suffered enough?
Do us a favor. Watch your children around water! Only then can we combat the climbing numbers of water-related incidents in Arizona.
Charles Ratliff is a journalism graduate student and Editor in Chief of the Arizona Summer Wildcat.
Read Next Article