Byline: Sarah Prohaska
PORT ST. LUCIE Last week, an 8-month-old girl quietly scooted the wheels of her baby walker through an open sliding-glass door and fell into a swimming pool.
Her grandparents told police they were baby-sitting at the time.
It happened Friday morning while the baby's grandmother was cleaning in another room and her grandfather left for a few minutes to use the restroom, according to a Port St. Lucie police report.
The infant was found facedown in the pool, still strapped to her walker. She was rushed to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. Police deemed the incident to be an accident.
To police Capt. Don Kryak and his wife, Amy, last week's incident shows why they must continue to raise awareness about their 13-year campaign to educate the public on how to avoid that very scenario.
The couple founded a Treasure Coast child safety program called Never Leave a Child Unattended - and, on the brink of Memorial Day weekend, they are speaking out to remind parents about the dangers of leaving children unsupervised, even for just a minute or two.
Don Kryak said Wednesday he was grateful the near-drowning his department handled last week had a positive ending - the girl is expected to recover fully - but many do not.
"It's not for us to Monday-morning quarterback. We're not here to be critical," Kryak said. "We're here to educate so we don't have a repeat of that."
The couple said this year's will be the program's largest public awareness campaign. Kryak said their message boils down to this: It's good to have pool fences and alarms, but you must keep your children in your sight.
"Our campaign is built on the philosophy that there is no substitution for supervision," Kryak said. "That is the key."
The campaign this summer will include public service advertisements, posters and brochures sent home with all St. Lucie County school students. The group also is working with the Florida Student Nurses Association and the Swim Collaborative of St. Lucie County.
The Kryaks launched Never Leave a Child Unattended in 1993 after three local toddlers drowned and five nearly drowned within a few months. Since then, the program has grown and expanded its focus to include abductions, children who wander away while unsupervised and preventing children from being left alone in cars.
Kryak said the governor just signed a law that makes leaving a child unattended in a car a misdemeanor.
"Things can happen so quick," Kryak said. "Ultimately, you have to have your eyes on the kids."
For safety tips and other information, visit www.neverleaveachildunattended.org.