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‘Make it safer for other children’: Twin brothers’ drowning raises awareness about risks

A family is grieving nearly three days after Fire Rescue divers pulled a pair of 13-year-old twin brothers who didn’t know how to swim out of a pond in Miami-Dade’s Pinewood neighborhood.

There were red heart-shaped balloons, candles, and toys at Arthur Woodard Park, at 1220 NW 99 St., where one of the boys fell into the pond while playing, and the other jumped in to help.

Witnesses said one of the boys appeared to have been tangled in the aquatic weeds that have invaded the pond. His legs had weeds when the divers pulled him out of the pond, a witness said.

“I would hope that changes will be made to make it safer for other children so others don’t have to deal with what we are going through right now,” Joinel Louis, the boys’ stepfather, said in Creole after they died on Friday at North Shore Hospital.

Experts worry that the recent death of the 13-year-old twin brothers in Miami-Dade County is a tragedy foretold.

Gabriela Robles, the director of Aquatics at the YMCA South Florida, said the tragedy is a reminder that unfortunately, children face a high risk of drowning in Florida.

“We are surrounded by so many bodies of water, the beaches, pools, lakes, canals,” Robles said.

Florida is among the states in the country with the highest drowning death rates in the U.S., according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 40% of drownings among children ages 5 to 14 happen in natural water, according to the CDC.

An analysis of the CDC data also shows that drowning death rates for Black people are 1.5 times higher than for white people, and the disparities are 3.6 times higher for Black children ages 10 to 14.

Experts believe this is because they are less likely to be able to afford to pay for swimming classes for their children. There is a need for more free or affordable swimming lessons for minors in South Florida.

Here is a list of educational options in South Florida:

The Red Cross offers a few free online courses including Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers and Orientation to Swim Lessons for Parents and Caregivers.
StreetWaves, a nonprofit organization based out of Delray Beach has a free Aquatics Enrichment Program. It requires parents or legal guardians to apply.
The Children’s Services Council of Broward County partnered with Broward County’s SWIM Central program to provide a $40 coupon upon application for children younger than 8 years old that apply to a list of vendors.
The city of Miami has a learn-to-swim program that offers eight lessons for $45 for residents of the city and $65 for those who don’t live in the city.

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