VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The horrible day in August of 2019 is sketched in her heart and mind when Kim Bianchi got the call that there was an accident involving her 2 and a half-year-old daughter in the family swimming pool.
A News 3 investigation looks at the alarming number of young kids that drown each year.
This family is sharing their unimaginable pain in an effort to save more lives.
“She was sweet, feisty, and lovable. She was my perfect bean,” said Bianchi about her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter Gabriella Bianchi.
They called her Bean and said she was happy, smart, and had a special spark.
“Whenever I needed a happy fix, I would come over and visit little bean,” said Barb Iman, Bean’s Grandmother.
In August of 2019, her parents went to work and her grandmother was about to take her out for the day.
“I had to go to the restroom. We are going to Chuck E. Cheese to visit a friend,” said Iman.
She said she was in the bathroom for a matter of moments and Bean headed towards the pool.
“She loves to play hide and seek, so I thought she was hiding. I was calling her and then I went out there and I found her in my pool,” said Iman.
Bianchi said she got a call while she was at work. “I just remember her saying Kim the baby the baby.”
Paramedics and police rushed to the house and tried to save Bean.
She was taken to the hospital but it was too late. Bean drowned.
“Obviously, it’s a huge loss and she was such a great little girl and it’s been really painful,” said Iman.
The CDCsays more children ages one to four, die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects.
For children ages, one to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.
They say accidents happen mostly in swimming pools.
“It’s not like what you see on TV, they don’t splash and yell. It’s a very silent death,” said Iman.
They said to add to the pain were the questions they were forced to answer. They said they understood first responders were doing their jobs, but it was difficult.
They said the woman from CPS asked why she wasn’t in swim lessons.
Bianchi said she called all of the local places and was told the classes were full. She said no one told her about self-rescue survival swimming.
They are different than regular swim lessons.
“Nobody ever said the dive center down the street teaches infant water rescue classes. They just said no, call back in October and I didn’t have her in October,” said Bianchi.
The self-rescue survival swimming classes are for babies 6 months and older and they teach kids how to float, rollover, and survive if there’s an accident.
Kim Doczi Schwartz is an Aquatic Safety Trainer and has been teaching people to swim for 25 years.
“It’s something every child can do if they’re just shown how to do it and it could save their life,” said Schwartz.
She believes that floating devices can be dangerous because they teach kids how to stay vertical which can be problematic.
She said puddle jumpers and water wings seem like fun, but she says they are not the best because they give kids and parents a false sense of security.
“Don’t rely on the swimmies. It can be a disaster and it can be an ordeal you don’t ever want to go through,” said Iman.
The family is now taking their tragedy and working to make more people aware of the dangers of drowning especially in little children.
They started the non-profit Bean’s Way Foundation to help people pay for the infant rescue self-survival lessons.
Many parents don’t realize that these lessons are available.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders knowing that she could save herself,” said Gabriele Vakos’s 18-month-old daughter is currently taking these lessons.
Bianchi said she didn’t know about these kinds of lessons or how many young children drown each year.
“It takes 30 seconds and they’re gone or they’re brain-dead and your life is changed forever and there’s no ever going back to that life,” said Bianchi.
Bean’s mom wears her ashes on a necklace.
She doesn’t want the cost or time constraints to stop any parent from signing their child up for these lessons.
“It’s nothing when you have to carry her child in a necklace or bury her or him,” said Bianchi.
CDC encourages people to learn basic swimming and water safety skills, build a fence around their pool, and want people to learn CPR.
Bean’s mom’s dream is to open a year-round pool that teaches little ones how to float so people don’t need to be put on waiting lists.