Recent drownings highlight need for swimming lessons

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Four drowning deaths in Gulf Shores and recent drownings in South Mississippi have many parents taking steps to help their children stay safe in the water.

The numbers certainly make a lot of parents nervous. In Jackson County there have been five drownings so far this year. Harrison County had three drownings and Hancock County reported one drowning death. One swimming instructor advises parents not to wait until they hear about such tragedies to enroll their children in swimming classes. On a sweltering hot day nothing beats a fun swim in the pool.

For the swimmers in the beginner's class at the Biloxi Natatorium they're seriously focused on every stroke and breathing technique. Many of the youngsters have been taking swimming lessons since they were only a year old.

"It just takes a split second. I'm a pretty paranoid momma when it comes to the water. Always watching and counting heads. So that's why I really want them to learn to swim and be strong swimmers," Biloxi resident Ashley Helmert said.

And recent drowning deaths in Gulf Shores and along the Mississippi coast stress to the parents the need to enroll their children in swimming classes.

"Horrific, it just breaks my heart. I cannot even imagine. I just feel for these families," Gulfport resident Mandy Suckow said. "That's why I think it's very important to get them in as early as possible, six months and introduce them to the water and hopefully, that will help if something does occur later on in life."

At the Biloxi Natatorium the beginner's classes and classes for infants and their moms are full. This summer, the city added another class after a three-year-old child drowned in Jackson County late last month. Danny Walton has been teaching swimming for 20 years now. His biggest advice to parents is to never turn your back on your child in a pool.

"No matter how good a swimmer you think they are. Even I myself never swim alone. You always have to have somebody watching you," Water safety instructor Danny Walton said.

That's because you never know when you may get a cramp, seizure, or get caught in a dangerous rip tide.

"Try to stay calm. Swim along the shore until you get out of the riptide. The riptide is trying to pull you out. Swim along the side until the rip tide gets away from you and relax and swim into shore," Walton said.

While most classes are full at the Biloxi Natatorium there are still some openings in the Adult and Advanced classes. Night-time classes are offered year round.

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