A mum has issued a warning after a toddler almost drowned in front of her on a beach.
Charlie Reynolds, from Surrey, saw a toddler splashing about in a small hollow in the sand while she put a towel over her daughter’s head.
The child at some point “toddled and fell” into the water at Summerleaze Beach in Bude, Cornwall, the woman said.
After a few seconds, no one – including other onlookers and the child’s parents – did anything while the child lay fairly motionless, just lightly flapping his arms around waiting to be rescued.
Charlie said: “He lay flat, his hands windmilling a little and his feet flapping. Nothing dramatic. Just quietly drowning in front of their eyes.
“Just as I started to crash through the water to get him, his mother realised he was in trouble and waded in too.”
But by the time the child was rescued, he had already taken on some water.
When he was reunited with his parents, the child seemed shaken and scared, Charlie said.
The little boy coughed up a bit of water and his parents made sure he calmed down.
Charlie is now warning other parents as she fears the outcome of the incident could have been much worse.
She said: “Children this age don’t have the reflex to move their head sideways or push themselves upwards.
“And even though you’re born with the reflex to hold breath, unless they do swim training to harness that potential it goes away.
“Toddler heads are disproportionately large and their neck is short and not very strong. Even if they try, they can’t necessarily lift their neck clear.
“In this case, he didn’t put his hands down or knees down. A toddler can drown in two inches of water. It’s not that they’ve knocked themselves out. They just lie there and wait.”
Ms Reynolds, who said she has done survival training with her daughters, said toddlers can take on water quickly because they do not realise what is happening.
In the training, she said her daughter instinctively turned her head down, and not up, when put into the water for the first time.
She added: “It takes less time than that child was in the water for a toddler to drown.
“I don’t blame the parents at all for underestimating the depth of the water, but parents need to know.”
She also said that even when a child is clear from the water, parents should always go to the GP.
“Having had his face in the water for so long, secondary drowning is rare, but it a risk,” she said. “It can take up to 72 hours, with submersion injuries, sand and other bits in the airway.
“I should have been more forceful with the parents. His dad just seemed to think his child had a fall into the water.”
To her knowledge, the child on the beach was okay but she felt uneasy about the number of bystanders who waited, expecting someone else to jump in.
In a Facebook post about the incident, she added a final thought: “Most drownings happen when other people are watching.
“Everyone is watching, but no one is seeing. Everyone assumes someone else is being vigilant, but no one actually is. Or, even worse, someone does notice but doesn’t want to interfere or look like an idiot by crashing into the water like I did today.”