NORTH NAPLES, Fla -- A terrifying day in North Naples sends four children to the hospital after nearly drowning in two separate incidents.
A five year old girl and seven year old boy are fighting for their lives in the intensive care unit at NCH in North Naples. The five year old girl was found in a retention pond just off Orange Blossom and Airport Pulling. Hours later three boys are pulled from the gulf at the south end of Pelican Bay.
"They were in the water and you know how the rip tides can come on very fast, very violent, it swept him up and away," says North Naples Fire PIO Jerry Sanford.
Sanford says the seven year old got caught in the current. That's when the 13 year old jumped in to try and save him when he too got pulled under. A 16 year old then came to the rescue before a boat pulled them all to shore safely.
"He's kind of a hero," says Sanford talking about the 16-year-old. The two teens are in stable condition as of Tuesday evening.
Two separate incidents have local advocates speaking up to make sure it doesn't happen again. Paula DiGrigoli says these frightening scenarios happen far too often.
"Every time our heart breaks because we know what the families are going through and we know that it's 100 percent preventable," says DiGrigoli.
DiGrigoli is the Executive Director for the Safe & Healthy Children's Coalition, a group created in 2010 to educate parents and kids to prevent drownings.
"If you get caught in the rip current the first thing you need to do is you have to float. Let your body float. If you are fighting and trying to swim out of the rip you're going to get tired and that's when tragedies happen," says DiGrigoli.
The Safe & Healthy Children's Coalition received a $50,000 grant from the NCEF Winter Wine Festival to teach summer swimming lessons to three, four and five year olds.
They are also working with 50 agencies in Collier County including pediatricians to spread the message: get your children swimming lessons, always supervise, put up barriers around the water and know how to respond.
"All pediatricians in Collier County distribute the water safety booklets in English, Creole and Spanish starting at the 9 month well visit," says Dr. Charles Todd Vedder. "As soon as they're crawling we start telling parents you need to get layers of protections around any water hazards in and near the home."
Dr. Vedder, also serves as chair of The Safe & Healthy Children's Coalition. "Make sure there are barriers, particularly fences away from those water hazards and never swim alone."
Dr. Vedder also says if a child goes missing, look at the water. "You think they're playing hide and seek from you. Check the pool first or check that water hazard nearby first. You only have seconds."