Locally, there are usually several water-related fatalities a year. Age, trauma, alcohol, poor swimming skills and poor supervision combine to make a catastrophe. Sometimes you can even do everything right, and bad things still happen.
One year, we had an office party at our house. All the kids swam in the pool and the adults mostly ate and talked around the pool. We had a lifeguard at the side of the pool and I was in the water, keeping a close eye on everyone. We thought everyone was a swimmer or had a floatation vest. We were wrong.
One of the kids was not a swimmer and he did not have a floatation vest. He got on an innertube and drifted out into the deep end of the pool. There he slipped through the center of the float and quietly sank. No yelling, no screaming, and no hand waving. Neither the lifeguard nor I noticed the child was missing until one of the kids started screaming and pointing from the side of the pool.
The lifeguard jumped in, and I grabbed the child from the side of the pool. He was blue and not breathing, but his heart was beating. I quickly gave 2 rescue breaths and after a few terrifying seconds, he coughed up the water. He recovered without any problems.
From this I learned that there is no substitute for knowing how to swim. All the other tips for water safety are basically common sense. But swimming is a skill that must be learned. No matter how old you are, it is never to early or late to learn to swim! Just do it!