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Safety experts remind parents to never leave children alone in tub

Safety alert comes after deputies say Nassau County toddler drowns in bathtub

After deputies said a 14-month-old girl drowned in a bathtub inside her family's Nassau County home, safety experts reminded parents of the dangers of leaving children alone in a tub.

It's a mistake that happens too often and can end tragically, according to safety experts.

"A lot of parents who have been surveyed about this say that they will go get a towel, check something on the stove or go to answer the phone or doorbell, when really what we need to do is just avoid doing that at all or take the child with us," Cynthia Dennis, with Safe Kids Northeast Florida, told News4Jax on Wednesday.

The Nassau County Sheriff's Office said the girl, whose name has not yet been released, and her 3-year-old sister were left alone in a bathtub at their home on Linda Hall Road.

Sheriff Bill Leeper said that when their mother, who deputies identified as 22-year-old Josie Ann Clay, returned after having left the girls alone for just a few minutes for unknown reasons, the younger girl was facedown. 

"They (infants and toddlers) have a large head and weak neck muscles, so they are top-heavy. They tend to fall forward on their face all the time," Dennis said. "If they do that, even in just a little bit of water, they don't have the upper body strength to lift their head and body up out of the water."

The 14-month-old was taken to a hospital, where she died, deputies said. At last check, charges had not been filed against the mother. 

Dennis said it can only take minutes for a child to drown in a bathtub, and it can happen in as little as an inch of water. 

"A lot of times, well-meaning parents will think that an older child can supervise the baby," she said. "And they just don’t understand, they shouldn't be given that responsibility."

According to Dennis, the recommendation from experts is that children under the age of 6 should be supervised while they are either taking a bath or a shower to keep them safe from drowning or from falling in the tub. 

Safe Kids offers three bath time safety tips for parents:

  • Never leave your child alone in the tub.
  • Make sure the water is warm, not hot. Hold your wrist or elbow in the water for five to 10 seconds to check. 
  • Drain the tub as soon as your child is done with the bath. 
  • READ: The facts about children and the danger of drowning

    Safe Kids of Northeast Florida is a local coalition of Safe Kids Worldwide and is led by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Its mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury.

    Click here for more water safety information from Safe Kids.