Now, Smith and his family have opened up about their loss in an emotional YouTube video memorializing River and thanking medical staff for all the efforts made in his final hours.
In the video Smith and his wife, Amber, explained that, like Bode Miller's daughter, little River's drowning did happen in a home swimming pool. Smith says he and the kids were outside that day. The singer and his oldest, daughter London, age 7, were doing gymnastics. River and his 5-year-old brother Lincoln were having a water gun fight.
"I remember thinking, I was looking at London, as she was doing gymnastics and I thought, 'Soak up this moment because it's not going to last forever,'" Smith explains in the video. Soon, that moment turned to panic. "Somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes, we don't know, Amber and I are inside our pool gate doing CPR on our son."
"We had an incredible boy for three years"
In the video, the Smiths explain that they "feel very blessed" to have had River in their lives for "just over a thousand days."
It is heartbreaking, but the Smiths say they don't want pity or to wallow in sorrow and are trying to cherish the moments that they did have with River and figure out where they will go from here.
"It has only been two weeks but it has been a journey," says Smith.
In an Instagram post, Smith explained why he and Amber are choosing to share the details of River's death publicly:
"I've been dark on social media, but I still have a full understanding of the responsibility placed upon me as a public figure. I can choose to snuff that influence, or instead use my platform (in relevancy big or small) towards what I believe is right. I believe I'm obligated on certain levels to include you guys in my current journey, as I've been involved either personally or musically in yours," the 39-year-old singer wrote of the tragedy he and his family have suffered.
The circumstances around River's death are all too common
A new report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asserts that child drownings are on the rise. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children aged 1 to 4. According to the report, fatal drownings spiked in 2016, with 389 reported deaths of children under 15 and 74% of these fatalities occurring in children under 5.
This news highlights the need for more awareness and vigilance. And by sharing this data—and some things parents should keep in mind as we head into the summer—the report (and the Smith's video) may save lives.
Fatal drownings commonly occur during the summer and at residential locations. This makes a lot of sense: It's easy to feel a false sense of security in your own home (or a close friend's home), but the absence of a qualified lifeguard could lead to some devastating scenarios. That's why the team behind this report is urging everyone to sign the Pool Safety Pledge —because by familiarizing yourself with the dangers and the best way to avert them, you could potentially save a child from this tragic fate.
Water safety for parents
On top of learning how to keep your child safe yourself, you may also want to equip your little one with swimming skills. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics , a great time to start swimming lessons is earlier than you may think: The organization suggests that children as young as a year old can benefit from lessons.
The AAP also warns parents or guardians to always supervise children in pools, ensure an adult is within arm's reach of inexperienced swimmers, and consider avoiding things like inflatable floaties (which are not replacements for life jackets and may give parents a false sense of security). Parents who have pools in their homes should consider installing a fence of at least 4 feet around the pool, keeping rescue equipment close at hand, and have drains and suctions updated regularly. You can find a full list of tips from the AAP here.
The prospect of losing a child to drowning is harrowing, so it's of utmost importance that we all learn as much as we can about prevention as we head into the summer. We hope this report has the power to keep kids everywhere safe in the water.
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- This is why I share the story of my son almost drowning
- Parents need to know more about the risks surrounding drowning, say grieving moms
- Granger Smith's tragedy: What you need to know about drowning risks