Drowning for love: the aquatic victim-instead-of-rescuer syndrome: drowning fatalities involving those attempting to rescue a child
Article first published online: 26 OCT 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health © 2010 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (Royal Australasian College of Physicians)
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Volume 47, Issue 1-2, pages 44–47, January/February 2011
How to Cite
Franklin, R. C. and Pearn, J. H. (2011), Drowning for love: the aquatic victim-instead-of-rescuer syndrome: drowning fatalities involving those attempting to rescue a child. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 47: 44–47. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2010.01889.x
- Issue published online: 23 JAN 2011
- Article first published online: 26 OCT 2010
- Accepted for publication 19 April 2010.
- non-contact water rescue;
- water safety
Introduction: Non-intentional child drowning remains a leading cause of child mortality. A related and secondary syndrome is composed of those who drown in impulsive, altruistic attempts to go to the aid of a drowning child. Such ‘rescuers’ who attempt to save a drowning child may themselves drown, a tragic event we term the AVIR syndrome or aquatic victim-instead-of-rescuer.
Methods: This study is composed of a five-year (1 July 2002 to 30 June 2007) total population Australian survey, using the National Coroners Information System to identify cases and an analysis of every immersion rescuer–victim dyad where the primary ‘victim’ was a child and where the ‘rescuer’ drowned.
Results: In Australia (2002–2007), 17 rescuers drowned in 15 incidents in which the primary victim was a drowning child. In 93% of the incidents, the primary ‘child–victim’ survived, 82% of the victims were unfamiliar with the aquatic location (i.e. were a visitor) and 76% of the victims were a male parent, partner of first-degree relative. Alcohol was not generally involved.
Conclusion: We define the AVIR syndrome as one that typically involves the following: a male, parent, partner or relative; an unfamiliar water hazard; a ‘rescuer’ who is a tourist; alcohol is not usually involved; and the primary victim usually survives. We posit that an increased awareness of such risks, the promotion of rudimentary rescue skills (e.g. being able to throw a lifeline) and increased advocacy for parents to learn the simple and basic life-saving skills of non-contact rescue will help reduce these drowning tragedies.