Connecticut officials issue water safety warning ahead of beach and pool season

Joe Torres Image
Monday, May 6, 2024
Free swimming lessons being offered in CT amid lifeguard shortage
Joe Torres has the latest in Connecticut on the lifeguard shortage.

CONNECTICUT (WABC) -- Officials in Connecticut are issuing a water safety alert on Monday before the pool and beach season gets underway amid a major lifeguard shortage.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal was joined by three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Rowdy Gaines, Yale University swimming champion Ali Truwit, who lost her leg in a shark attack, and Stew and Kim Leonard who lost their child in a drowning accident, to discuss water safety.

They announced a plan to offer 40,000 free swimming lessons for children amid the national and statewide lifeguard shortage at municipal pools and state beaches.

The lessons will be offered to kids in underserved communities throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The initiative announced Monday is meaningful to Leonard and his wife who lost their 21-month-old toddler, Stew Leonard III, in a drowning accident in 1989.

"We're teaching 1,000 kids a week, we're taking 100% of the profits and we're donating to all of the needy organizations like local YMCAs, the Boys and Girls clubs," said Stew Leonard Jr.

In 1990, they founded the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in memory of their son, with a mission to educate children and families on water safety. Since then, they have raised $6 million -- not just for swimming lessons but for lifeguard training.

"There are beaches around the state of Connecticut, state beaches like Hammonasset, where they may not be able to open parts of the beach this year because they don't have enough lifeguards," Blumenthal said.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, according to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention.

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