Viewpoints: East L.A. drowning serves as a tragic reminder of water safety

Memorial for Erick Ortiz on the fence of the Atlantic Park pool | C.J. Salgado

By C.J. Salgado

EAST LOS ANGELES — I learned to swim at the public pool in Atlantic Park, where I spent many summers growing up. So, last week’s drowning of 16-year-old Erick Ortiz at the pool reminded me of my own scary experience as a kid when I nearly drowned there myself. I had jumped into the deep end of the pool trying to impress a friend. Clearly not thinking straight, I misjudged my abilities and soon found myself drowning. Luckily, the lifeguard on duty spotted me quickly and dove into action, pulling me out before I took in too much water.

How the victim in the recent drowning could have been missed until it was too late is still under investigation. But over the last few days, Erick is being remembered through a growing make-shift shrine that’s been erected alongside the pool. Over 100 candles, posters, and a basketball pay tribute to the Garfield High School student.

If there is anything good to come of this, it is to at least remind us that water safety is critically important, especially in the summer with an increase of water activities. Even with life guards on duty in broad daylight, it only takes minutes for a life to be put at risk of serious injury or death.

Proper supervision, especially of kids, is so important. So, too, is knowing what a swimmer’s abilities are. Click here to read about some water safety tips by The Red Cross.

Water gives life but can also take it away.

Photo by C.J. Salgado

C.J. Salgado is a resident of East Los Angeles

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