After two toddlers died and a third was rescued from a daycare pool in California last week, water safety and drowning prevention advocates said the “tragic” and “preventable” incident highlighted several warning signs for parents and caregivers.
The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) is investigating what led to the October 2 drowning deaths of 18-month-old Payton Alexandria Cobb of Hollister and one-year-old Lillian Hanan of San Jose. A third child who was pulled from the pool was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, according to SJPD. The incident prompted the California Department of Social Services (DSS) to issue a temporary order suspending the license for Happy Happy Daycare on Fleetwood Drive in San Jose on Thursday, according to local media. The owners also face $11,000 in fines, local station KTVU reports.
SJPD said during a press conference last week that no charges had been filed against the daycare owners at this time, but the investigation was ongoing.
Newsweek SJPD emailed Sunday for comment and an update on the case.
That’s drowning most common cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, according to statistics from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), and advocates say the number of annual deaths is “going in the wrong direction.”
“We mostly assume it’s gun accidents, car accidents or sleep disorders, but among 1- to 4-year-olds, drowning is the leading cause of death,” said NDPA Executive Director Adam Katchmarchi Newsweek in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Unfortunately, our drowning rates have trended in the wrong direction over the last few years since COVID.”
Compounding the problem is that people are uninformed about water safety and are often unaware that drowning occurs quickly and silently, Katchmarchi said.
“The public just doesn’t have a good understanding of what drowning is,” Katchmarchi said. “We are so used to the Hollywood or television version of drowning, which is not the most accurate portrayal of a real drowning victim. It is a quick fight lasting 20 to 60 seconds and is often silent. This is not the case with children.” will be this screaming that calls for help.
Happy Happy Daycare, where the three young children drowned on Oct. 2, received its license in early 2021 and is run by Nina Fathizadeh and Shahin Shenas, according to online DSS records. The daycare center was quoted six timesThe records show that state investigators concluded, among other things, that the daycare cared for too many infants at a time, did not adequately monitor the infants during nap times and allowed an adult employee to work without proper criminal record clearance.
At the time of publication, it was unclear how many adults and children were in the daycare at the time of the drowning.
The backyard pool caused issues with the daycare’s pre-licensing, with state inspectors raising concerns about the pool deck’s fencing and pool access and visibility. The owners had to correct the problems to “ensure that there is no imminent threat to the health and safety of the children in their care.”
However, state inspectors found that the pool area at Happy, happy daycare According to a January 2023 DSS facility assessment report, it was found to be “fully fenced” and the fence was at least 1.5 meters high and had a gate that “is self-closing and has a self-locking device.”
It was unclear at the time of publication how the children managed to get into the water last week.
Newsweek has reached out to Happy Happy Daycare for comment through the caregiver’s website and Facebook page.
Doug Forbes, who founded the Los Angeles-based company Meow Meow Foundation In memory of his late daughter Roxie, who drowned at a summer camp at age 6, he called on state officials to require additional safety measures for child care facilities with water access.
Forbes told Newsweek In a telephone interview Sunday, he said he is calling for improved water safety measures, including video surveillance, alarms, water safety education and emergency plans to curb “preventable” drownings. It was unclear what measures Happy Happy Daycare had taken at the time of the incident other than the fence mentioned in the DSS report.
“The incident in San Jose is beyond tragic,” Forbes said. “You never think an incident like San Jose can happen to you or your child until it does. I bear witness that I am a survivor of this. And it doesn’t just end with this triple drowning. Just like me You can always say it like this: It takes a village to help and protect a child, and it takes a village to harm a child. And in this case we cannot explicitly point our finger only at the operators of daycare centers. We have to look at the system that surrounds this daycare operation.”
According to Forbes, the most important factor in drowning prevention is for adults to pay attention to children “every minute” whenever water is near, the 59-year-old child safety advocate said, noting that about 80 percent of all children drown when an adult is present.
He said parents and caregivers not only need to keep a close eye on children and “not on phones,” but also ensure there are two barriers preventing access to a water source.
“Unfortunately, systemic failures continue to promote avoidable drownings and deaths of our most valuable cargo,” Forbes said Newsweek. “Therefore, as a parent, especially at a daycare center or a holiday camp, you can never ask enough questions or demand enough documents or evidence. Ask as many questions as necessary until you feel comfortable because you don’t want to live like me and regret it. I didn’t ask enough questions. I didn’t take enough care.”
Katchmarchi warns that people need to understand that “water is inherently dangerous.”
“I would recommend that parents consider choosing daycare centers that don’t have a swimming pool,” he said Newsweek. “While we want children to become water literate and have these experiences in the water, we need to consider the risk.”
He said that in the San Jose case, the tools that should have helped prevent drownings failed. Katchmarchi said “somehow” the children managed to get around the pool fence and gate, coupled with a “brief lapse in supervision,” which led to the “tragic” ordeal.