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St-Lazare family raises awareness about pool safety; Quebec sees spike in drownings

Click to play video 'A near miss pushed St-Lazare family to speak out about water safety' A near miss pushed St-Lazare family to speak out about water safety
A St-Lazare family with eleven kids is speaking out after their 2-year-old almost drowned in April. The cold water saved her life and now her parents are hoping their new safety measures will prevent other families from going through the same trauma. Global's Anne Leclair explains.

A St-Lazare family with 11 children is hoping to raise awareness about pool safety and drowning prevention after their toddler was found unconscious in their backyard pool in late April.

The cold water likely saved her life, paramedics said, and her parents are now on a mission to educate others about the possible dangers surrounding private pools.

“We were all outside doing work in the yard and we never heard my daughter fall when she fell in the pool,” said Pascal Groulx. “We never heard a splash or a scream or anything.”

What they did hear was their 16-year-old scream when she spotted her little sister in the water, after putting toys away in the shed.

“She screamed out, ‘Oh my God! is that Amaya?’ and ran over to the pool,” said Tara Lawson. “Her father heard her and ran and that’s when they pulled out our two-year-old, who was at that point unconscious, in hypothermia.”

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Without any CPR training at the time, Amaya’s father improvised chest compressions until paramedics arrived about 20 minutes later, according to the family. 

READ MORE: Police investigating drowning of two toddlers in Quebec residential pools Friday

“I must have done something right because she started breathing again,” said Groulx.

“It was extremely traumatic for us, for all the children,” said Lawson. “We were extremely lucky that Amaya was able to get through this without any kind of repercussions but it made us think, what else can we do to make our pool more secure for our children?”

While their pool was already surrounded by a locked-in fence and spring door, they’ve since added a pool alarm to hear if anyone falls in. What’s more, the adults and older siblings have all taken certified CPR courses since the scare.

“With the amount of children we have, accidents are always something that can happen,” Lawson told Global News.

It’s been a deadly summer in Quebec waters.

The number of drownings has reached 60 so far this year compared to 44 at the same date last year. 

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READ MORE: Search for missing man called off after body recovered from Montreal river

Quebec’s construction holiday was especially deadly, with 13 drownings over the last two weeks, up from eight in 2019. 

While the majority of victims drown in rivers and lakes, nine drownings out of the 60 so far in 2020 have happened in pools compared to only two at the same time last year. Seven of the nine were children under the age of 14.

“There’s a lot more private pools this summer and it’s warm so it’s a good time to remind everyone about the safety tips,” said François Lépine, the Lifesaving’s Society’s Quebec program director, noting that residential pool sales are at an all-time high. 

Experts warn that drownings often happen quickly and silently, which is why one person always needs to be in charge of keeping constant supervision on children just like a lifeguard would do. According to statistics from the Lifesaving Society, 87 per cent of drownings among children occur when adults are distracted or not supervising.

“You cannot read a book or be on your computer or on Facebook,” said Lépine. “You need to be vigilant because a drowning occurs very fast, it’s between 15 and 20 seconds and it’s silent.”

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It’s a lesson the Groulx siblings insist they’ve learned after the close-call with their sister.

“When you tell the kids, ‘watch the youngest’, you always got to be there,” said 12-year-old Haylee Groulx while wiping her tears. “For one second you could just look at your phone and the kid could be in the pool.”

“It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, just watch them,” added 14-year-old Savannah Groulx.