Swim instructor explains how Greenwood baby could have survived several minutes in icy pond

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OLATHE, Kan. -- A Greenwood father has been charged after he allegedly tried to drown his 6-month-old daughter.

Jonathon Zicarelli, 28, faces one count of first-degree domestic assault. Court records say Zicarelli went to the Greenwood Police Department just after 10 a.m. Monday, stating he had just killed his child by drowning her in a pond by the soccer fields on Doc Henry Road.

Officers rushed to the pond to find the infant girl in an icy pond, floating face up. She's now recovering at Children's Mercy Hospital but is expected to be OK.

Some have called it "a Christmas miracle."

But Pietra Carrell, general manager at Aqua Tots in Olathe, said babies, even as young as 6 months, have natural swimming and survival instincts.

"Perhaps a child would automatically do that, but I wouldn't want to risk it. I would want to make sure that I had seen them before rolling over to their back and make sure they had all over their skills." Carrell cautioned.

That's why parents or instructors never take their hands off small children for even a second until they're ready at the swim school.

“For infants under a year, it’s a natural reaction when certain things happen. You can trickle water on their face, lift and lower rapidly. So when you are able to submerge the child, they get used to that. And as they get older, it becomes just a natural reflex," Carrell said.

Instructors teach parents how to make sure the child’s epiglottis is closed to block the airway from water. Early on, it’s not about swimming but survival -- teaching babies how to roll on their backs and get air.

“We had a baby not too long ago, 6 month old, that she very quickly learned how to roll over to her back. So when they had an incident at home and she fell into the tub, she just quickly rolled right over," Carrell said.

By 4 months old, the youngest age eligible for classes, babies will naturally kick and paddle. Though without any known lessons, it's quite lucky the Greenwood girl managed to roll over and stay afloat long enough for help to arrive.

“I haven’t heard a lot of stories that are like that at all, but I’m very grateful that that baby did," Carrell said.

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