Taking Action Special Report: Drowning & Race

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - Drownings are devastating. Unfortunately, they happen often. Just this year, WHNT NEWS 19 reported on nine drowning deaths involving people in the Tennessee Valley. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.

Males, children ages 1 to 4 and minorities are most at risk. WHNT NEWS 19 is Taking Action to make sure you understand how serious of an issue this is and know what resources are available.

Ray and Faith Segura want their two sons, 3-year-old Roman and 6-month-old Rocco, to be comfortable in the water and with the idea of swimming. For Ray, it's a matter of preparation.

“Not only is it important for you to know how to swim to save yourself, you may have to jump in and save someone else that doesn`t know how to swim,” says Ray Segura. “And it’s fun on top of everything else."

For Faith, it's matter of preventing the past from repeating itself.

“I stayed away from the pool,” says Faith Segura. “I wasn’t really around pools. Nobody in my family had a pool."

She stayed away after a near drowning as a young child in a swimming pool.

“I don’t know if I slipped or what happened, but I just remember being submerged under water,” describes Faith Segura. “I remember seeing all the bubbles and things like that and then it went black. I don’t remember what happened after that."

When Faith woke up, she was throwing up and coughing.  “That kind of tainted my view of the pool," she explains.

However, now that she's a mother of two, Faith is determined to overcome her fear. The Segura kids, along with their mom, will soon participate in swimming lessons at the Hogan Family YMCA in Madison.

“Swimming is a lifelong sport and lifelong activity that needs to take place," says Daniel Kasambira, Executive Director of the Hogan Family YMCA.

Kasambira is passionate about making sure people in our community, especially minorities, learn how to swim because the statistics show, it's costing lives.

“We know that over 4,000 people will die each year from drowning in the pool,” says Kasambira. “Eighty-eight percent could be prevented with swimming lessons. The worst thing you could do is tell a parent your child didn’t make it because of their inability to swim."

The inability to swim is especially prevalent among minorities. According to the USA Swimming Foundation, 70 percent of African American children and 60 percent of Hispanic/Latino children can't swim.  The question is why.

"One of the biggest excuses is fear," explains Kasambira. “Unfortunately, hair. People don’t want to get their hair done."

Add lack of interest, access to a pool and the cost of lessons to the list too. Despite those reasons, Kasambira pleads with parents to find a way.

“It’s something that is necessary and you hate to have a situation happen where you can’t control what happens to your child,” says Kasambira. “Please get swimming lessons."

As for the Seguras, they're doing just that.

“I think it’s important for them to learn how to swim and for me to know how to swim just in case something did happen,” says Faith Segura. “I could get in there and not be nervous.”

“Most kids don’t have the opportunity to get in the swimming pool and we have the opportunity here at the YMCA,” explains Ray Segura. “We’re going to take advantage of every opportunity we have and that we feel will benefit us and the kids in the long run."

At the Heart of the Valley YMCA, you can start lessons with your child as early as six months. If paying for lessons is an issue, the "Changing Lives" campaign can help offset the cost. The Hogan Family YMCA has given away $223,000 in scholarships. It's time to stop making excuses and gain a skill that could save your life or the life of someone you love.  The Southeast Family YMCA on Weatherly Road also offers swimming lessons and scholarships for families who need help with the cost.

The Heart of the Valley YMCA is one of many places in Huntsville and Madison County that offer swimming lessons. For more resources and information on other places to take swimming lessons, click here. If you live outside of Madison County, click here to find swimming lessons in your area.