One of the pools at La Petite Baleen Swim School in San Francisco

Melissa Culross/KCBS Radio

Recent Drownings Highlight The Importance Of Water Safety Skills

Melissa Culross
June 14, 2019 - 4:25 pm

SAN FRANCISCO — Several drowning incidents in the Bay Area over the course of a week have served as grim reminders of the importance of water safety. 

A 14-year-old boy drowned in the water off Crissy Field in San Francisco on June 10, and a man drowned in Lake Del Valle near Livermore on June 8. Another man fell from a boat on that lake on June 11 and also perished. 

At La Petite Baleen Swim School in San Francisco on Friday morning, kids were participating in their regular swimming lessons.  Paige Hutcherson, the school's marketing director said that according to the Centers For Disease Control, weekly swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by up to 88 percent. 

"The American Academy of Pediatrics just updated their policy on swimming lessons, and they're now saying to truly prevent drowning, we need to get our children into swimming lessons as early as possible" Hutcherson said. "It should be the first sport that our children learn."

San Francisco resident Aggie Gettys was watching as her 5-year-old daughter finished her lesson. Gettys enrolled her daughter and 9-year old-son in swimming lessons before they were out of diapers because she knows that swimming skills are important, especially at the beach.

"(The tide) could change in a minute, and no matter how strong of a swimmer you are, it can drag you in," Gettys said. "That happened to me when I was in high school, actually.And my best friend got me out."

Not everyone can afford swimming lessons, however, and Hutcherson said that La Petite Baleen offers 200 scholarships to families with low incomes every year. "We can't give every child a scholarship. We know that we can't possibly fit every person who doesn't know how to swim in this pool, but we have the resources, and we have people that are passionate about what we do. And hopefully we can get these people to volunteer and maybe we're going to other pools and getting into the low income communities."

The school also offers free lessons to any child under the age of six months.