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Drowning death is ruled accident

November 15, 1996

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

The death of a 3-year-old child Thursday appears to have been an accident, Hagerstown City Police said Friday.

Livil Augustus Morales Jr. was taking a bath in the tub when he drowned Thursday in the family's apartment at 110 S. Locust St., police said.

Police believe the boy was left alone in the tub only for a short time when the accident occurred, detectives said Friday.

An autopsy performed Friday in Baltimore showed the child had water in his lungs, police said. There were no marks or bruises on the boy, no signs of a struggle. The autopsy showed the child was in good health and well-nourished.

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"There doesn't appear to be anything suspicious," said Tom Wetzel, a forensic investigator involved with the case.

A 911 call was made shortly after 11 a.m., saying that a child had drowned in a bathtub at 110 S. Locust St., according to Hagerstown City Police.

Community Rescue Service paramedics responded to the apartment and arrived within four minutes of the call, fire officials said.

CPR was begun and the child was taken to the hospital, officials said. The boy was pronounced dead at 12:14 p.m.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, childhood drownings can happen in a matter of seconds and typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision.

Children ages 4 and under have a drowning death rate two to three times greater than other age groups and account for nearly 60 percent of home drownings, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign. The drownings typically occur in swimming pools, bathtubs and buckets.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children can drown in an inch or two of water and should be watched at all times by an adult when around water.

Children have drowned in buckets, ice chests, toilets, bathtubs even with baby "supporting ring" devices, irrigation ditches and post holes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Among the tips offered by the doctors:

  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub.
  • Empty all buckets, pails and bathtubs completely after each use.
  • Keep young children out of the bathroom unless they are closely watched. Keep the door shut with either a hook and eye latch or a doorknob cover on the outside of the door.
  • Use a rigid, lockable cover on a hot tub, spa, or whirlpool, or surround it with a fence.
  • Set the water heater thermostat so that the hottest temperature at the faucet is between 120 degrees to 130 degrees to prevent a child from being burned.
  • Closely watch children playing near wells, ditches or open post holes. Fill in empty holes or have fencing installed around them.
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