The latest incident happened a little over a week ago on Tuesday, July 22, when a ten-year-old girl was playing on a jetty at Coney Island Beach after-hours and slipped into the powerful ocean waters.
The youngest of the six victims was only two years old.
Shawn Slevin, chair of the Swim Strong Foundation, said that 98 percent of drownings are preventable.
“As far as I can see, each one of these deaths has been unnecessary,” Slevin said. “That’s what’s so upsetting and frustrating about this.”
The Swim Strong Foundation uses swim programs, such as affordable swim lessons and swim safety education for families, to save lives and teach children values through competitive swimming.
Slevin said that in order to prevent future fatalities, swim and water safety education needs to be a priority.
“The bottom line is education and parents and families embracing it and sharing it with one another,” she said.
In that vein, Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Mark Treyger held a press conference on the boardwalk of Coney Island Beach to discuss changes they would like to see to increase water safety in the city.
While Adams discussed legislation that would require water safety education and swim lessons for second graders across the City, Treyger called for more Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers on the beaches, which would allow for stricter enforcement of swimmers leaving the water after lifeguards finish their duty at 6 p.m.
“No one is teaching the ABC’s of swimming,” Adams said. “And because that is not being taught, because there is no clear format of teaching water safety, our children and families are recklessly going to the water’s edge believing that this beautiful ocean is a toy.”
Treyger agreed, saying that education was the first in a two-fold issue when it comes to water safety in the city. But, according to Treyger, responsibility does not fall entirely on the shoulders of families, and there is a need for the increase of PEP officers, which he believes would fulfill the city’s duty to protects its citizens.
“We have to make sure that city government is doing all that it can do as well to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening, not just here in Coney Island, but anywhere else in the City of New York,” Treyger said.
Adams’ proposed legislation is still in the works in conjunction with State Senator Diane Savino, who is looking into the logistics of creating a water education program for second graders and drafting a bill. Adams said that he believes the cost of such a program would be $150 per student.
“But we can’t put a price on public safety, we can’t put a price on having parents not receive a phone call that their child has drowned,” he said.