How To Recognize The Signs Of A Child Drowning In A Pool

Identifying if a person is drowning may not be as easy as you think. Many people have the belief that a drowning person will splash the water, scream and yell, and be easily noticeable. However, disturbing surveillance footage from a swimming pool in Helsinki shows that the opposite is true.

A little boy who was left unattended was drowning in the pool despite being surrounded by people. At first it looks like he’s simply treading water and enjoying a swim like most children do. It doesn’t look like he’s drowning, but it soon becomes clear he is struggling in the water.

Several people in the pool are right next to the boy, but they are oblivious that he is in trouble. It isn’t until he is floating inert in the water and bumps into a young woman that anyone realized he needed help.. Thankfully, the boy fully recovered and is fine, but the footage clearly reveals the phenomena known as “silent drowning”.




Note: the video may be disturbing to sensitive viewers. But, as noted, the boy has fully recovered from this ordeal.

It should be noted that the boy had been left in the pool unattended by his mother, who was later charged with negligence and got 4 months jail time.

Identifying silent drowning isn’t easy, as the signs are often missed unless you are aware of what to look out for.

Some signs of drowning in children to watch out for are:

  • Gasping: people rarely call out for help. That’s because a drowning person is focused on trying to breath and take in air, not expel it. Children very rarely call out and splash. Instead they will immediately go into the bobbing response (see below).
  • Bobbing: a person alternates between rising above the surface and sinking below it.
  • Arms at their the sides: Drowning people do not tend to wave their arms above the surface of the water. They usually have their arms spread out to their sides as they are trying to keep their head out of the water.
  • Floating face down: just like the boy in the video above, if you see someone floating face down for more than a few seconds they have likely fallen unconscious. At this stage it is critical that they be pulled out of the water as soon as possible.





What this video reinforces is the cardinal rule of swim safety – never leave a child unsupervised in the water.  Don’t take your eyes off them. If you must take a call or text or go to the washroom ask someone else to look out.

We’re not sure why a lifeguard at the pool didn’t notice the boy, but some pools are very large and lifeguards may not always be covering all areas of the pool at all times. And, ultimately, it is the responsibility of an adult caregiver to look after a child.

The video also reinforces that if you see someone is drowning, even if you only suspect it, react quickly even if you are not trained as a lifeguard. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Share this important information with your friends and family.