Editorial: A child drowns . . .
Never leaving a child unattended by an adult or a responsible teen is difficult. Parents are busy, children are curious, hazards abound.
The only thing more difficult is losing a child to one of those hazards.
Amber Lynn Jerrells' family has just suffered such a loss, and the hearts of Indian River County go out to them.
The 23-month-old Amber wandered away with her 4-year-old brother from a house full of family members. The two toddlers were pretty quickly missed. But Amber was found in a nearby retention pond, too late to save her.
Grieving families are also angry families at themselves, at fate and, sooner or later, at whoever had a hand in creating the hazard that cost a life. That will include anyone connected with the creation, maintenance and regulation of the retention pond.
Storm-water ordinances overseen by the county Engineering Department govern the enclosure of retention ponds. They are no clearer than the water in some retention ponds, requiring certain slopes in certain developments or a barrier of some sort. And there seems to be a general exception that both developers and county officials have gotten hazy and lazy about: A developer can assert that a pond is "designed to serve as an "aesthetic amenity" and presto! No retaining wall, no fence.
Who decides whether it actually turns out to be an aesthetic amenity or how they should decide, the code doesn't say. And the Engineering Department has all but handed that say-so to developers.
"Sensitive to art and beauty; showing good taste; artistic" that's how Webster's defines "aesthetic." Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but the vagueness of the code section and the unchecked discretion officials allow developers on this score too often add up to grassy slopes, a couple of palms and a pond that is neither aesthetic nor safe. That has to change.
The fact remains, though, that unattended toddlers can and do drown in buckets, swales and bathtubs. Though residential pools must be enclosed, residential pools are, nationwide, the most frequent place where children age 4 and under drown, and most of them in their own family pool. Constant supervision, more than location, is the key.
Constant supervision is the focus of the "Never Leave a Child Unattended" campaign, begun by Amy and Don Kryak after a number of children drowned in Port St. Lucie in the summer of 1993. This public-service campaign has broadened to the whole Treasure Coast, in part through the sponsorship of the Treasure Coast Newspapers, including the Press Journal.
Take time to read the Kryaks' letter, on this page today, detailing the major hazards water and heat for children this time of year. It could save a child's life, and a family unending grief.