It has been a horror summer for drownings in NSW.
It has been a horror summer for drownings in NSW. Sharon Smallwood

Backyard tragedies can happen so quickly: OPINION

IT'S BEEN a horror summer in NSW with the dreadful toll of deaths from drowning.

We almost had a tragedy in our family many years ago; my sister's oldest son was pulled from their backyard pool when he was just a toddler, but his mum, a primary school teacher, had been taught resuscitation methods and managed to get him breathing again.

In this particular case, she was at fault; arriving home on a stinking hot day with a distressed little boy and a car full of groceries that needed to be refrigerated ASAP, she had propped open the pool gate to allow the car to be emptied quickly as there was direct access to the garage through the pool enclosure.

While it would be more than unpleasant to add to the distress of those who have lost children this summer, I can't help but think we should know exactly what circumstances led to this many backyard pool tragedies, if only to hammer home the cold hard facts about how terribly easy it is for kids to drown.

Have there been gates left open, latches broken and not fixed, or furniture nearby that could be pulled to the fence?

There is a video going viral on the Internet this week showing Aussie toddler Brodie Atkinson scaling a regulation pool safety fence by wedging his tiny feet between the bars, allowing him to reach the child-proof latch and swing the gate open.

His mother, Wendy, posted the footage to warn others just how easy it is for children to circumvent obstacles in order to achieve what they want.

We are told there is no substitute for close supervision, but even that is sometimes not enough.

I still recall with a shudder yet another incident when I was a teenager; I was visiting the home of my best friend Kathleen and they had a pool.

It was a big family; the Catholic McGuires had 13 kids and Mrs McGuire, I always thought, had eyes in the back of her head as she always seemed to know what her kids were up to even when they weren't in her direct line of sight.

On this particular day the three of us, along with Connor, the youngest in the family, were standing inside the pool fence talking about something when, to our astonishment, Mr McGuire burst through the upstairs flyscreen door and vaulted over the stair railing, sprinted to the fence and cleared it.

Connor, who must have been 18 months old, had slipped without even the slightest noise into the water right behind us, not two feet away, and had sunk straight to the bottom.

His father, mercifully, had seen it happen and managed to save him.

Tragedy can happen that easily.

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