Drowning is a leading cause of death for young children,...

Drowning is a leading cause of death for young children, experts say. Credit: John Roca

A 5-year-old boy found unresponsive in a family pool in East Moriches was pronounced dead on Thursday at Stony Brook University Hospital, officials said.

Mason Hammil was found by his mother, Wendy Hammil, in the pool at their residence on Woodcrest Drive on Wednesday afternoon, Suffolk County police said in a news release.

CPR was performed on the boy until first responders arrived and took over, police said. He was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, and then to Stony Brook University Hospital in critical condition.

Suffolk County Police Seventh Squad detectives investigated the death. The victim’s family could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Safety experts said drowning is the  leading cause of death among children up to age 4, with about 500 lost each year in the United States.

“Drowning is a major problem,” said Dr. Julie Gilchrist, a medical and scientific adviser at the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, an education and advocacy group. “There is nothing that kills more kids 0 to 4 than drowning, so 5 is right there in the high-risk group.”

The most common drowning location for young children is backyard pools, she said, though for infants it is bathtubs.

“Drowning happens very quickly and very, very quietly, so parents oftentimes don’t even realize what’s happened,” Gilchrist said.

She said the best protection to keep children out of pools when not supervised is four-sided isolation pool fencing with a self-closing, self-latching gate.

The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend children start swimming lessons at age 4, but now says they can benefit as early as1 year old, she said.

Nonfatal drownings of children younger than 15 in 2022 were statistically unchanged nationwide from the year before, according to a staff report to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission in May, while fatal drownings among the same age group fell by about 16% between 2018 and 2020.

But experts said it remains a major problem, and Gilchrist noted the numbers have been increasing since 2020 and the start of the pandemic.

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