It's an announcement no parent wants to make. Two months after revealing they are expecting again, Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife, volleyball player Morgan Beck Miller have shared tragic news with the world.
The couple's youngest child, 19-month-old daughter Emeline Grier Miller has passed away. She drowned in a swimming pool, the Associated Press reports.
"We are beyond devastated," Miller wrote in an Instagram post honoring his late daughter. "Never in a million years did we think we would experience a pain like this. Her love, her light, her spirit will never be forgotten."
According to the AP, paramedics were called to a home in Coto de Caza, a gated community in Orange County. First responders did all they could, but resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful and the toddler was later pronounced dead at Children's Hospital of Orange County, the OC Register reports.
Our hearts are broken for the Millers.
What can parents do?
Unfortunately, Emeline's story is tragically common. Drowning is a leading cause of death worldwide, and ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in America. The World Health Organization notes that "globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years."
According to the CDC, there are about 10 non-boating related drownings in America every day. One in five people who die from drowning are kids under 14, and for every fatal childhood drowning, another five kids are rushed to hospital and survive their submersion injuries.
Assign a designated watcher
During a pool party or a cookout there's a lot going on, and it's natural to get distracted. That's why the Mayo Clinic recommends parents and adults at such gatherings take turns tapping in as the "designated watcher" and fully focus on the kids playing in or around a pool.
A survey by Safe Kids Worldwide found that many parents (48%) believe they would hear splashing, crying or screaming if their child was in danger in the pool, but submersion injuries actually tend to happen silently, so watching is better than keeping an ear out. Kids under four are particularly vulnerable to drowning, so they should be kept within arms reach of when swimming in a pool.
Take swimming lessons (but still supervise)
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "children over age one may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction. However, there is no evidence that swimming lessons or water survival skills courses can prevent drowning in babies younger than one year of age."
While it is true that swimming lessons are no substitute for adult supervision, infant swimming lessons are a good way to introduce your child (and maybe give yourself a refresher course) on the basics of water safety.
Infant self-rescue swimming lessons (which aim to teach babies how to roll onto their back and float) are popular with parents, but have attracted controversy in recent years and safety experts don't want parents to feel overconfident in a child's ability after taking such a course.
"Parents may think they won't have to supervise as closely," Barbara Morrongiello, a professor with the University of Guelph who studies drowning prevention, told Global News. Morrongiello notes that swim lessons for toddlers can help the children become confident in the water, but she just doesn't want parents to get overconfident.
Install fences and barriers
According to the CDC, most drownings of kids under four happen in backyard pools, so if you've got a pool, barriers should be a top priority. According to Parachute, a charity dedicated to injury prevention, "a fence which provides a complete barrier around all sides of a pool may prevent seven out of 10 drownings to children under five years of age."
Indeed, many pool drownings don't happen when the family is together, but when a child has somehow accessed the pool during a time they were not expected to. That's why "self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children," and "additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area," are important, according to the CDC.
No parent should have to go through what the Millers are going through now, but their story is a reminder to all parents to be vigilant about pool safety this summer. For more backyard pool safety tips, check out redcross.org.