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Memorial Day weekend is just days away.

It’s the unofficial kick-off to families spending more time in the water and a fitting time for awareness, as May is National Water Safety Month.

This week, NBC 5 is bringing back Swim Week, a series of stories to help keep you and your family safe.


One of the biggest organizations leading the mission to prevent drownings is the YMCA. All of the chapters across North Texas are driving home some eye-opening warnings every family needs to know about before heading into the summer season:

Drowning is the leading cause of death in children under 5. Texas ranks only 2nd in the country for fatal drownings. Florida ranks number one.

Studies have shown that minority children are three times more likely to drown. Data also shows that 60% of all African-American children are unable to swim.

A residential pool is 14 times more likely to take the life of a child than a car.

That’s why YMCA leaders are urging parents to enroll their kids in swim lessons and make constant supervision an absolute must.

“So if you’re not watching them – the time it takes you to change a baby’s diaper or to send a text message or to walk inside and get another kid to have a snack – the child’s on the bottom of the pool,” said Jennifer Pewitt, Associate Vice President for Aquatics for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. “I’ve sat across the table from so many families in her just horror stories.”

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Young children are especially at risk in any type of water, from pools to open water and even bathtubs. According to health experts, children can drown in as little as two inches of water.


The reality of drowning is something Chezik Tsunoda is painfully familiar with.

“Yes it’s sad, yes there’s a lot of pain. But there’s a lot of hope too,” she told NBC 5 during a recent visit to North Texas for the National Water Safety Conference hosted in Fort Worth.

In 2018, her 3-year old son, Yori, drowned in a friend’s backyard pool. She hopes sharing her story can save just one more life, even if it’s too painful to talk about.

“This is a critical issue, that it just rips away children,” she said. “It’s preventable. My child – I was there when he drowned. And it’s not something you want to go telling everyone ‘I could have prevented my child from dying.’”

People don’t think it’s going to happen to them

Julie Jackson, Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition

Ever since his death, Tsunoda has been on a mission to raise awareness around drowning prevention and water safety.

She channeled her pain into a new documentary –Drowning in Silence – which she screened to an audience in Fort Worth during the water safety conference.

“It really did turn into like a healing experience, as I connected with other parents who have lost children,” Tsunoda said. “I didn’t realize how triggering it would be because you are around parents that really do understand what you’ve been through and you’re also around changemakers that can actually make a difference.”

Changemakers like the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition.

“People don’t think it’s going to happen to them,” said Julie Jackson, vice president of programs for the coalition.

She helps lead their free swim lesson program and educates parents on being water watchers.

Click here to learn more about getting started with swim lessons

“It’s all about being aware of your surroundings and being vigilant. It’s preventable,” Jackson said.

The coalition also partners with the Fort Worth YMCA, local fire departments and Cook Children’s Hospital to give out free life jackets, CPR lessons, and other tools to prevent drownings.


Data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services shows there were 77 fatal child drownings in the state last year. YMCA leaders believe there’s been an uptick since the pandemic began.

“I think part of that like in 2020 and 2021 is that a lot of people were home. And when you look at drowning deaths, especially in preschoolers, most of those drowning deaths happen in backyard pools or community pools,” said Pewitt.

But swim lessons can make all the difference.

“The CDC says swimming lessons reduce a child’s risk of drowning by 88%,” said Pewitt.

According to state data, 15 kids have drowned across Texas so far this year. Most were under the age of 5. Adults are not immune to drowning, as several fatal incidents have been recorded on North Texas lakes like Lewisville and Joe Pool Lake in the past month. Investigating authorities have said life jackets were not present in some of those drownings.

“We have to remember as we talk about statistics, that these numbers are people, and we just need to be really cognizant and respectful of that,” said Jackson.

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Many drownings occur from backyard pools and open water. There’s concern that the number will grow this summer.

“I just hate to think that they are going to increase but I think it is. I mean people want to get out, we want to enjoy the lakes and rivers, and I think that’s where we’re going to see it this year,” Jackson warned.

Tsunoda says she doesn’t want to see that happen as her fight to prevent another tragedy continues. She started a non-profit organization called No More Under to educate parents and prevent drownings.

“So ultimately, it is this healing journey of hope of how we can change the statistics around drowning,” she said.


Another challenge to prevent drownings this summer is a lifeguard shortage.

The YMCA of Metro Dallas said it needs 200 lifeguards going into the summer season.

Tryouts are held every Saturday at any YMCA location. Even if you don’t pass, the YMCA will give you a free membership to improve your skills. Click here for more information.

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