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Port Charlotte family urging safety measures after 2-year-old drowns

Recent child drownings throughout Southwest Florida have sparked initiative by prevention advocates. And we spoke to a family, whose child is among the four recent drownings, warning others about the consequences.

Kimberley Martin is normally helping her son, 2-year-old Wayne Schaefer Jr., pick out his Halloween costume during this time of year. Instead, she is planning his funeral.

“Very happy little boy,” Kimberly said. “He loves to play in water.”

Wayne Jr. drowned in his family’s pool at their home in Port Charlotte last week. He is now among four children who have drowned throughout Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties in the last three weeks.

Wayne Jr.’s family loved to watch their fun-loving son splash in the water

“We were actually talking about getting him swimming lessons for his second birthday,” Kimberly said.

Just weeks after he turned 2 years old, Wayne Jr.’s father and brother found their back door unlocked

“We both saw the sliding glass door open to the pool,” Wayne Schaefer said.

The pool fence was also opened, and Wayne Jr. was unresponsive in the water.

“You just don’t think about that kind of stuff happening,” Kimberley said.

Charlotte County Fire & EMS rushed Wayne Jr. to Bayfront Health in Port Charlotte, where he died.

“Drowning is 100 percent preventable,” said Terri Ballo with NCH Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition. “There are layers of protection.”

Wayne Jr.’s parents took precautionary measures, but Ballo said there is more to do to prevent these things from happening, which includes adding door alarms and high locks to prevent a child from drowning.

“I really want people to be aware of it,” Kimberley said. “That it can happen.”

“In a split second,” Wayne said.

NHC Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition in Collier County wants to make sure families don’t continue to fall victim to child drownings. It’s holding a public call to action meeting 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29. They hope to educate community members about all different ways to keep family members safe in the water.

“Please, watch your kids around pools,” Wayne said.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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