Jude Vandpoel, with his trike, at his backyard pool in Marian.
Jude Vandpoel, with his trike, at his backyard pool in Marian. Madura McCormack

Close call: How toddler saved himself after falling in pool

NO ONE heard Jude Vandpoel fall into the backyard pool. At just 20 months old, it was swimming lessons that helped avert tragedy.

Jude, now 2, was riding a plastic tricycle around his family's 10m pool in Marian last winter as his brothers, Sam and Levi, splashed and dived at the other end.

His mum, Katrina, was watching the three boys when Jude cut a tight corner and fell in.

"I was sitting on the edge of the pool, dangling my legs in, and the nine-year-old (Sam) and five-year-old (Levi) were doing bombs and jumping and getting me to look at them," Ms Vandpoel said.

"He was riding his plastic tricycle around the pool, and he fell into the shallow end fully clothed... I didn't even hear him.

"In that time he's turned and dog paddled towards the edge and saved himself."

When Ms Vandpoel, who was pregnant with her fourth child at the time, saw Jude in the water she jumped in immediately.

"By the time I got to him, he had already paddled to the edge," she said.

Jude had been doing weekly half-hour swim lessons at the Pat Wright Swim School for about 12 weeks when the incident occurred.

"(Now) he can swim our whole 10m pool, no problems, he can swim edge to edge, he dives, he jumps, he's an awesome swimmer."

An experienced swim teacher herself, Ms Vandpoel said water skills were essential and firmly believed lessons should be made mandatory in schools.

The Daily Mercury and 45 other News Queensland publications - with the backing of major bodies such as the Australian Water Safety Council, Royal Life Saving Society Australia, Surf Life Saving Queensland and leading Olympians - yesterday launched an S.O.S. campaign to "Save Our Schoolkids".

The campaign calls on the State Government to commit to compulsory swim and water safety lessons in Queensland primary schools.

Surf Live Saving Queensland manager for the North Barrier Region Jenny Neal said mandatory swimming lessons would protect children in the community.

"This day and age, families are busy and there isn't enough money to get kids to swim lessons," she said.

"We should be pushing to make it compulsory in our schools, where it should be as a place of education. Kids learn these skills and retain them for life."

Queensland Family and Child Commission data has revealed drowning is the top preventable cause of death for children aged 1 to 4.

QFCC Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon said the death of one child was too many.

"Drowning can be quick and quiet - young children often don't make a sound after they enter the water," she said.

"Even just a few seconds of inattention can have tragic consequences."

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