An interactive guide to what happens during a child drowning

Lindsey Black with portrait of son Santana Cheyanne Mumphrey/Dow Jones News Fund

An interactive guide to what happens during a child drowning

Health and Safety

An interactive guide to what happens during a child drowning


When Santana Black was 22 months old, he wandered out of his babysitter’s sight and plunged into his grandparents’ backyard pool.

On that day, Dec. 16, 2006, his brain went without oxygen for 20 minutes.

His heart stopped beating for 45 minutes. He stayed in the hospital through Christmas, New Year’s Day, and the entire month of January.

When Lindsey Black finally brought her son home from the hospital on Feb. 1, 2007, he was brain dead.

Patrick Breen/The Republic

She knew he would require 24-hour care for the rest of his life.

“I grieved who Santana was,” she said. “He was a happy little boy smiling all the time, and I really grieved that. I wanted to know who he could have been.”

Visit the Dow Jones News Fund’s Ripple Effect project to see more of Lindsey’s story, hear from first responders who have treated children in drowning incidents, and learn about what happens to the body in a drowning.

In the following years, Santana’s condition transformed the family.

The Blacks built a new home to accommodate Santana’s wheelchair. Lindsey spent most of her days in bed, and her husband worked long hours to distract himself.

Their different methods of mourning drove them apart, she said, and they eventually divorced.

In 2014, Santana died from complications brought on by his near-drowning.

“My child unfortunately died twice,” Lindsey said. “I lost who he was back in 2006, and I lost who he’d become in 2014.

“When he was gone, I just felt like I was gone. I felt like there was nothing left. . . . I had to go through my process of not only losing Santana, [but also] losing myself.”

Now, Lindsey Black works to stop other children from drowning and wreaking havoc on their own families.

Watch Lindsey Black recount what happened after her son Santana fell into a pool

Video by Lillian Donahue/Dow Jones News Fund

What you can do

Hundreds of children drown or nearly drown each year across the United States.

In the Phoenix area, where the Blacks lived, emergency responders have been called to 77 water-related incidents so far this year, including 32 drowning deaths.

Eight of those who died were children.

Children under 4 are the most at risk for drownings, but these deaths are preventable. Here’s what you can do to keep your child safe around water:

  • Take your child for swimming lessons (or if you can’t afford it, teach them yourself)
  • Learn CPR so you can help anyone in need
  • Install a fence around your pool. It’s not foolproof, but it can help prevent children from wandering near the water unsupervised
  • Always watch your kids when they’re near the water

This article was produced with reporting by the digital media interns of the Dow Jones News Fund in association with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.


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