After two tragic accidents in backyard swimming pools in Hamilton and the GTA on the weekend, safety advocates are urging the public to be vigilant as the weather heats up.
It takes only 10 or 20 seconds for a person to drown, said Barbara Byers, public education director for the Toronto-based Lifesaving Society.
"It's very quick and it's very quiet," she said.
On Saturday night, parents of a four-year-old boy found their son dead in the backyard swimming pool. Police told the Hamilton Spectator that the parents may have been distracted and lost track of their son.
On Friday, a 20-year-old babysitter was found without vital signs after being pulled out of a backyard swimming pool in a home in Newmarket.
It's not known how and why the woman got into the pool, but she was pulled out of the water by first responders after the four-year-old girl she was babysitting called 911. She remains in life-threatening condition.
About 160 people of all ages die from drowning in Ontario every year in the water, Byers said.
Backyard pools, she said, account for 10 per cent of drownings.
The age group most vulnerable in backyard pool deaths is children below the age of five, Byers said.
To prevent such accidents, Shelley Makepeace, a swimming and water safety representative with Red Cross, said it is paramount to follow municipal laws on fencing of backyards pools. Not only should the gate be fenced but it should only be accessed by an adult, she said.
Byers said it is important to have layers of protection to prevent such tragedies.
"(Children) are curious, inquisitive, active and if they see a pool and sparkling water, they really want to get there because it is so inviting and appealing," she said.
The four-year-old boy in Hamilton had climbed the steps of the pool and either fell in or lowered himself in, police said. The cover of the pool had been taken off that very day and the pool had residual water. The boy was taking swimming lessons and could have been excited to see the pool open, police said.
Byers said Hollywood movies show people screaming when they are drowning but that is not how it happens in real life.
The reality is when a person is drowning, water enters their airway, which renders them unable to speak, she said.
"When a person is drowning, there's silence," she said.
In a pool area — especially with children — parents or caregivers should have their eyes on them a 100 per cent, and they need to be within arm's reach, she said.
"Because if you turn your head or turn your body to have a conversation, or look at your phone or put something on the barbecue or have your back towards them, you won't notice that they are in trouble," Byers said.
It's also important to watch the face and eyes of people in a pool, she said because you can see fear or happiness in their eyes or on their face.
It's not just children who are vulnerable.
Immigrants are at greater risk of drowning than others, she said.
One of the first steps they should take, Byers said, is to learn how to swim considering Canada has numerous water bodies.
And always swim with a buddy, she said.
Byers also cautioned people not to drink alcohol when swimming.
Among those people who died while swimming, and that includes backyard pools, about 30 per cent of the victims had alcohol in their systems, she said.
Not only does alcohol affect a person's judgment, but it also gives them false courage, leading to inappropriate activity.
Another safety tip Byers has is that if you're tired and in the deep end of the pool, she said it's best that a person floats on their back to make sure they keep their face out of the water.
"Enjoy the water," she said, "but respect the water."