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For Henderson Councilman Stewart, drowning danger hits home

About six years ago, Dan Stewart’s grandson Ryan was found blue in the face at the bottom of a community pool in Inspirada.

Stewart said Ryan, now 10, was old enough to be in the pool alone, but not old enough to swim without “floaties.” Ryan had gotten out of the pool, had his “floaties” off and was wrapped up in a towel. Ryan’s mother turned around to tend to her baby, and when she turned back around, Ryan was gone.

He was found at the bottom of the pool, and his mother pulled him out. Another child’s mother at the pool performed emergency first aid, and Ryan was rushed to the hospital and suffered no permanent damage.

Stewart, a Henderson city councilman, said his family has become more aware of the danger of drowning and is doing what it can to educate others. He supports the Safe Pools Rule! initiative, a campaign to help prevent drownings this summer.

Henderson Professional Fire Fighters will launch this year’s Safe Pools Rule! on May 4, coinciding with Water Safety Month. The launch is set to feature speeches from Mayor Debra March; Fire Chief Shawn White; Dan Pentkowski, the president of Henderson Professional Fire Fighters and a captain with the Fire Department; Stewart; and Lake Las Vegas leadership.

Drowning is the leading cause of preventable and unintentional deaths of young children in Southern Nevada, Pentkowski said.

As a father, Pentkowski said, seeing a child die or suffer serious injuries is one of the hardest things to witness on the job — “not only to see the loss, but to see what it does to the families and communities.” He has been with the department for 16 years.

As part of the campaign, the department stages mock drownings in front of residents and city officials, Pentkowski said. He added that popular films incorrectly show children kicking, screaming and crying in the water before a drowning, but in reality it takes “a few moments for a child who can’t swim to slip under the water.”

Learning CPR and putting up fencing around pools are among the ways to prevent drowning and water-related injuries, Pentkowski said.

Contact Rachel Spacek at 702-387-2921 or rspacek@reviewjournal.com. Follow @RachelSpacek on Twitter.

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