Four-year-old Mia Harrison was meant to start big school next year.
Last Tuesday, she went to her Kindergarten orientation day. Her mother Mekaela shared a photo of a smiling little girl, wearing a pink hat, matching pink pants, a long-sleeved shirt with a gold heart, and tiny purple sand shoes. In another photo, she sits in the classroom holding a purple pencil, smiling excitedly at the people around her.
For Halloween just last week, she dressed as a witch.
But on Saturday, Mia went to Orange Aquatic Centre with a group of family and friends, and would never return home. In a “matter of seconds,” the little girl, who could not yet swim, either fell or was knocked into the water. She was found motionless at the bottom of the pool, and while lifeguards and family members desperately attempted to revive her, Mia was pronounced dead upon arrival at Orange Base Hospital.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph on Sunday, Mekaela Harrison described the pool as “very crowded with lots of children and adults around”.
“Accidents happen. Nobody is to blame. I would not wish any other parent to go through this, it’s impossible to understand how horrific it is,” she said.
The haunting story of Mia's death - in a public pool with adults present - highlights what so many of us don't know about drowning.
That is, that children and adults can and do drown at crowded public pools, at a similar rate to backyard pools. But for a long time, our statistics have been skewed.
While rivers, lakes, coastal waters and home pools are more deadly than public swimming pools, the rate of 'non-fatal drowning' is public pools is roughly the same as home pools. Non-fatal drowning is the medical term for the event in which a person technically drowns but is brought back to life. The person is underwater for long enough to require serious resuscitation attempts to survive, and can suffer long-term injuries such as brain damage. These swimmers are often not included in drowning statistics, despite having gone unnoticed by those around them for a near-fatal period of time.