OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - It has been a gut wrenching 24 hours in Pascagoula. The community is coming to grips with the drowning of a seven year old elementary school student. James Sims died Sunday night at the Azalea Park Apartment complex. The young boy's death is a reminder to all parents about the importance of swimming safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who take formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning by 88-percent.
Sixty-two years ago, Maryalice Miner found a young boy on the beach who had drowned. Since then, she has been on a mission to teach children how to swim.
"First of all, the child must have permission to get in," Miner said. "Even when he is getting in holding the mother's hand or his father's hand, he needs to ask, 'May I get in now?'"
Miner's daughter, Merileigh Furr, has been teaching with her mother since she was a little girl.
"My mother and I consider all of our students as a family," Furr said. "We like the parents to pay attention to us, because they are the ones that are going to swim with the children most often."
Monday was the fourth lesson for three and four-year-olds and their parents.
"One of our little swimmers said she could stay under water for two minutes," Miner told the parents during the lesson. "It is very important they do not play any games to see how long they can stay under water."
The students start by learning to be comfortable in the water.
"Last year, we had more drownings in this area than we have ever had. And it's just so grievous with people not paying attention," Miner said.
By teaching not only the children how to swim, but also the parents the importance of water safety, the duo hope to save lives.
"This is not the time to sit on the side of the pool, or text, or talk on the phone, or read a magazine, or drink. When the child is in the water, you should be in the water," Furr said. "That's a short time in their life and you won't regret it."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more tips on water safety: http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html