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14-year-old boy dies after being recovered from pool in Bel Air, officials say

A 14-year-old boy who was recovered from a pool Wednesday afternoon in Bel Air was pronounced dead at 5:51 p.m. at a local hospital, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday night.

The Harford County Fire and EMS department said the Bel Air volunteer fire company was dispatched to the 2100 block of Cypress Drive at 4:45 p.m.

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When firefighters arrived, a family member was performing CPR, said Cristie Hopkins, director of media relations for the Sheriff’s Office.

Medics took over and the boy was transported to a local hospital in what the department called grave condition.

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Detectives conducted a routine investigation and do not believe the death is suspicious or foul play was involved, Hopkins said.

The boy was swimming when he went underwater, when for unknown reasons, he did not resurface. A family member was outside with him during the incident, Hopkins said.

The Sheriff’s Office did not release the name of the teenager.

This is the third drowning in Harford County this year and all three have been in private, backyard pools.

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Joshua Edward Thomas, 27, of Jarrettsville died July 21 after being pulled from the bottom of a pool in the 1700 block of Redfield Road in Bel Air.

He had been in the pool with three juveniles, while adults were inside the home, police said. One of the juveniles reported that Thomas had gone underwater and not come back up.

An 11-year-old Edgewood boy, Zephaniah Muchele, died May 31, four days after he was pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool at a home on Neptune Drive in Joppa, where he had been visiting with his family.

Zephaniah was a fifth grader at Magnolia Elementary School.

Josh Bulavko, who has been a lifeguard for five years and has been swimming in Harford County for 13 years, said people need to be aware of the risks of having backyard pools.

“It’s very important to have parents that can recognize signs [of drowning] and making sure they always supervise children,” said Bulavko, 19, who swims for Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., and coaches the Emmorton Barracudas swim team.

He also founded Save Harford County Swimming several years ago when the school system proposed eliminating the swim programs from the budget as a cost-saving move.

It’s also important to have affordable swim lessons available in the area, which in Harford are offered by the American Red Cross through Harford County Public Schools.

“It’s important just getting kids used to the water, getting them comfortable around it,” he said. “Even if it’s a basic-level class, they will feel more comfortable after they do a class.”

The last session for this summer finished this week. The class is offered to students entering kindergarten through 12th grade at the Edgewood Middle School pool four days a week, 45 minutes each session.

The cost is $55 per child ($59 for out-of-county students) for each two-week session.

“We hold these affordable lessons for the community because we feel it is important that every child has an opportunity to learn to swim," Deborah Basler, supervisor of athletics for Harford County Public Schools, said. “The lessons are extremely popular, and parents call starting in January to find out when registration will start.”

If children can’t swim, they need to use personal flotation devices, which he said “can always be beneficial to prevent these types of things from happening.”

Accidents can happen even if the people in the pool know how to swim, Bulavko said.

“It’s crucial to never, ever swim alone,” Bulavko said. “You always need to make sure you have someone with you, even if you’re the most experienced swimmer.”

The loss the parents of the three drowning victims must feel is heartbreaking, Bulavko said.

“I can’t imagine what the parents must be feeling right now,” he said. “I just hope other parents can learn from this, and my thoughts go out to those families.”

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