Pond drowning spurs safety plea

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014

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Water Safety New Zealand and Southland Federated Farmers are urging parents to be vigilant for children near water and on farms after the death of a toddler on Tuesday.

A 2-year-old girl drowned in a pond on a dairy farm in Otapiri, Central Southland. The toddler was reported missing by her family about 7.30pm.

Emergency services attended the call and after an extensive search the girl was found at 8.40pm in a duck pond on the farm. CPR was performed but the child was unresponsive.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said every drowning was a tragedy but especially when the victim was a young child.

‘The most important thing for parents and caregivers to remember is keep your pre-schooler within arm's reach and in sight when in, on or around the water," he said. "A child can drown in just 5 centimetres of water within 60 seconds."

Last week Mr Claridge said an increase in the number of pre-schoolers drowning - and no drop in the 5 to 14 year old drowning toll - was a concern.

"No pre-schoolers should be drowning in this country."

Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said farms were a workplace. However, they could also be residential, so parents should try to minimise the risk for children.

"There are lots of dangers for children on a farm and as a parent you have got to be vigilant and try to reduce the risk."

It would be impractical to childproof farms, he said. It could take only a split second for a child to disappear if a parent turned their back. "I would encourage people to think ‘where is my child'."

People should be aware of similar water hazards in urban areas, too, he said.

Western Southland sub-area Commander Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley said police were investigating the toddler's drowning on behalf of the coroner.

Police could not release the name of the child because next of kin still needed to be notified.

A WorkSafe New Zealand spokesman said it had been notified about the death but no decision had been made whether to investigate. An inspector was at the farm with police last night to gather information and a decision could be expected today.

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