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      Brownsville children learn water safety amid recent drownings

      Brownsville Aquatics Center Swimming Instructor Mario Alberto Rios said one way to tell when a child is drowning is to listen.

      "Their screams - you can tell in their screams, Rios said. And the way they try to reach out their heads - it's just the desperation in their faces."

      Rios and other instructors at the center said those helpless cries are something they never want to hear.

      That TMs why they dedicate each summer to teaching youngsters how to swim, float, and survive if they're ever faced in a life and death situation.

      David Fernandez did not hesitate to sign-up his daughter Alejandra for swimming lessons.

      "I hope she learns more than I do (because) I don TMt know how to swim," Fernandez said.

      Lead Swimming Instructor Crystal Martinez said one of the best safety tips for parents is to teach their children how to swim at an early age.

      "They haven't gone through any bad habits or accidents that might get them scared (of the water), Martinez said. Usually adults that are scared of the water, is because they've one through some accident where they drank water or were about to drown."

      Although summer time means playtime for many children, the lifeguards said the pool is no place for horseplay.

      "Kids play the ~chicken game TM (where they get on top of another person TMs shoulders and try to knock each other off), and of course, when there's people around them, they don TMt know the hazards, Rios said. One can always fall-back and hit each other."

      "They think it's funny, they so they push (kids) in the water and (when he or she) starts drowning, then they don't know how to get him out," Martinez added.

      Martinez said other helpful tips are:

      - Don't wear anything that will absorb too much water and weigh you down- If you're swimming outdoors, watch for bees or other insects- Never get near electric lines when you are wet

      Martinez also said if you are swimming in the ocean and get caught in a rip-tide, do not panic.

      "Try to remember that, ~ok, if I don TMt move (in a panic, I TMm) going to float, TM Martinez said. Your body automatically floats."

      The Brownsville Aquatic Center (Margaret M. Clark Aquatics Center) located at 2901 F.M. 802, will offer free swimming classes starting June 13 at 8:30 a.m.