On May 26, 1988, Beverly Payton discovered what appeared to be a doll floating face-down in her neighbor’s pool in Bucks County. As she drew closer, she recognized first the blonde hair, and then the sneakers.
The figure was not a doll. It was her 3-year-old daughter, Alicea.
After administering CPR while fighting her rising hysteria, Payton’s desperate cries for help summoned another neighbor, who then called an ambulance. For the next 24 hours, tubes, wires and respirators struggled to assist Alicea’s feeble breaths.
Hours later, Payton held her lifeless daughter in her arms as she softly sang her favorite Polish lullaby to Alicea for the last time.
“That day, I made a promise to Alicea,” Payton said. “I promised that her death wouldn’t be for nothing.” For the past 25 years, Payton has kept her promise by employing every available means to promote awareness for drowning prevention.
On May 13, state Rep. Becky Corbin (R-155th, Downingtown) presented a proclamation to Payton, who now lives in Cochranville, at the Brandywine YMCA declaring May as Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Awareness Month. Corbin declared, “If we take just a few small precautions, we can be assured that the memories we create during the upcoming months will indeed be remembered fondly. It is my hope that no other families would go through the tragedy of losing a loved one because they overlooked simple water safety protocols.”
According to the Safer 3 plan from the Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation, these simple, life-saving protocols involve multiple layers of protection, which include installing house-door and water-disturbance alarms, building four-sided fencing, taking children to swimming lessons, preventing unsupervised access to pools and training vigilant adult supervisors in CPR.
One can never be too cautious. “Water is like a pied piper,” Payton said. “It draws children to it.”
Data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) news release on May 22 shows that most child drowning cases occur in backyard pools. Although the data from the study also indicate that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths in children ages 1-4, drowning cases never garner much media attention.