Data Shows Where People in San Diego County Have Died From Drowning - NBC 7 San Diego
Uncover. Reveal. Expose.

SEND TIPS(619) 578-0393

Data Shows Where People in San Diego County Have Died From Drowning

Centers for Disease Control: Every day, about 10 people die from accidental drowning in the U.S.

NEWSLETTERS

    processing...
    (Published Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016)

    Sabrina Pierce, a mother of four, spent months away from her kids while deployed for the U.S. Navy.

    When she returned home, she would make up for lost time by planning fun trips and activities for her family. But, she said her plans this past summer were shattered.

    “We wouldn't want this to happen to anybody,” Pierce said.

    Her son Alex, 13, was one of nearly 100 students attending a school-sponsored pool party at Vista Murrieta High School in Temecula on June 3rd.

    "There were 11 lifeguards and there were parents and teachers,” Pierce said.

    She said her son Alex swam frequently.

    "He was able to go in the deep end," she said. "He was able to turn on his back. If there was an issue, if he was tired, we taught him to float.”

    Shortly after the party started, Pierce said Alex was found underwater. Unresponsive, he was rushed to the hospital.

    “We were immediately told that he didn't have a good chance to survive,” said Pierce adding that if her son did regain consciousness, he wasn't expected to have full use of his limbs.

    Alex was transferred to Naval Medical Center San Diego.

    A month after his drowning, Sabrina and her family made the difficult decision to take Alex off life support.

    "I held him in my arms and told him I loved him," she said.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the highest number of incidents of drowning occurs to children between the ages of one and four years old. In 2014, one-third of children that age who died from an unintentional injury, died from drowning.

    Data from the San Diego County Medical Examiner, shows from 2006 to 2015, 365 people in the county died from accidental drowning.

    In 79 cases, the victims were 18 years old or younger. The number of people who drowned while in the ocean or bay was 136; 122 died while in a pool or hot tub; 52 died in the bathtub.

    Nearly 20 percent of all of the cases involved alcohol or drugs or both, according to the data.

    “I think whenever you're around water you have to be vigilant; Learning how to swim, knowing what to do in those circumstances is one of the most important things that you can do,” said Bryce Berggren with the American Red Cross.

    He also suggests people enroll in a first aid or CPR course to learn how to respond in emergencies.

    But, in Alex’s case, his mother said that didn’t matter.

    Police told NBC 7 Investigates no one performed CPR on Alex, until paramedics arrived four minutes later.

    “Which is unbelievable," she said. "If they would have done CPR right away, instead of wait for the fire department to come we could have (maybe) had a different outcome."

    Pierce and her family are still trying to understand exactly how Alex drowned, since they said he was a good swimmer.

    They are suing the school district for negligence. Pierce said, "Alex was a smart, happy 13-year-old boy that loved to make anyone around him happy. He had a chance to survive this incident but was failed so many times by so many people. Not only do we want justice for our son but we want to prevent this from happening to any other child and family."

    In a statement sent to NBC 7 Investigates, the school district's Public Information Officer wrote, "on behalf of Murrieta Valley Unified School District, our heartfelt sympathy and condolences go out to Alex's family. Due to pending litigation, I am unable to provide you with any additional information."