Houston Chronicle: Safety of swimming stressed as pool season heats up

John Albert Pluchinsky, 4, the son of Kathleen Wollin Pluchinsky and David Allen Pluchinsky and younger brother of Thomas Alec Pluchinsky, died while attending a summer day camp near his home in Memorial on July 18, 2007. Photo: Family Photo

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John Albert Pluchinsky, 4, the son of Kathleen Wollin Pluchinsky and David Allen Pluchinsky and younger brother of Thomas Alec Pluchinsky, died while attending a summer day camp near his home in Memorial on July 18, 2007.

Alec Pluchinsky still keeps his brother’s bed in his room, along with pictures and toys in a bottom chest drawer; he says it gives him comfort to know that though John Pluchinsky died three years ago, his memory lives.

“I wanted him close to me,” said 9-year-old Alec, who shared a room with his 4-year-old brother and asked his parents to move the furniture and belongings into his new room when he moved across the hall. “I want some of his stuff in my room just so I can look at (it) often to remind me of him so I don’t forget.”

John Pluchinsky drowned July 18, 2007, in a pool at Houston Racquet Club during a summer camp at the private club.

Now his family is speaking out in an effort to spare others their grief and to serve as a cautionary tale for camp counselors, lifeguards and other safety officials.

“It was such a preventable death,” Kathleen Pluchinsky said. “I don’t want my son to have died in vain. If one person changes something then it’ll be good.”

Today they will join the YMCA to help in kicking off its annual summer drowning prevention and swim safety program.

YMCA Water Wise aims to better educate parents, caregivers and children to the trouble signs to look for and what to do if someone appears to be in danger of drowning.

Today is the last day of school in Houston and several other school districts, and Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start of summer swimming season, with families diving into pools or driving to the beach.

The period from Memorial Day to Labor Day is the most deadly for child drowning, according to Kristine Meyerson, YMCA aquatics specialist and one of the founders of the Water Wise program.

Meyerson advises parents to take precautions such as inquiring about safety procedures, getting swimming lessons for their children and swim tests at every new pool their children visit, and to be aware of their children’s swimming abilities.

“Parents will overestimate the swim ability of kids,” Meyerson said. “We swim- test kids at the YMCA, and they’re surprised when their kids can’t get across (the pool).”

In backyard pools she advises parents learn CPR, designate a person just to watch the pool when children are swimming, and to create barriers to keep dangerous areas off-limits.

“One of the big misconceptions is that a child or a person will splash or ask for help … but that’s not the case,” Meyerson said. “A child can go under in as little as 10 seconds, and most times they don’t make a sound. They slip under and they’re gone.”

The number of Houston child drowning deaths dipped in 2007 but has been on a steady rise overall, going from 23 in 2005, the first year Child Protection Services began keeping records, to 33 last year. That number could grow again this year, as Houston already has seen 12 deaths before the start of the traditional swim season.

shaminder.dulai@chron.com

Published at: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Safety-of-swimming-stressed-as-pool-season-heats-1577395.php

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