A recent news story of a child's incredible bravery serves as a reminder of the importance of learning to swim and children's water safety. Over Memorial Day weekend, Chase Poust, age 7, was out for a day of boating with his father and younger sister, Abigail, on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida. With his boat anchored, Steven Poust was fishing while his children swam next to the boat, a common activity for the family.
When a swift current came through, Abigail, who was wearing a life jacket, let go of the boat and Chase swam after her to help. Soon, they were both in trouble. Realizing what had happened, Poust jumped in after his children, telling Chase to swim to shore while he tried to reach his daughter.
"I told them I loved him because I wasn't sure what's going to happen," Poust said. "I tried to stick with both of them. I wore myself out. She drifted away from me."
Swimming against the current, the young hero told reporters he floated on his back and doggie paddled so he wouldn't get worn out. When he finally reached land he ran to the nearest house for help.
Chase's dad and sister had drifted over a mile and a half from the boat's location before they were found, according to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD).
In a news conference following the rescue, Eric Proswimmer, a representative for the fire department, said, "We had every resource we could have possibly had coming quickly and we're happy to say all three have been recovered, and all three are doing well," he said. "We couldn't ask for a better outcome."
He's absolutely right. Chase's amazing story to tell has a lot to do with his swimming skills and presence of mind to get to shore safely.
Unfortunately, there has been a rise in children's drowning deaths. From March to April 2021, the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children has seen a 600% increase in pediatric drownings, compared to the same time last year. Most cases involve children under three, and experts think the pandemic is in large part to blame.
Dr. Don Plumley of Orlando Health told WESH News, "We really lost a whole year of opportunity of water safety instruction for children, children really weren't able to go to community pools, swim lessons."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice for preventing accidents, especially among children:
Learn life-saving skills
Experts say everyone in your family—adults and children alike—should learn how to swim, float, and perform CPR.
Fence off pools on your property
To keep your backyard pool safe, install a four-sided fence with self-closing and self-latching gates.
Life jackets are necessary
Life jackets save lives. Make it a family rule for every child to wear a life jacket when around water.
Keep an eye out
It sounds like common sense but watch your children closely when they're around water. Drownings happen quickly and quietly, so make sure that someone always has eyes on your child when they're in a pool or the ocean.
Perhaps Chase Poust's amazing story of bravery will save even more lives, as it offers a reminder to families to prioritize swim lessons for children and the importance of water safety this summer, and all year round.