After Elasha Laster put her 18-month-old daughter in her playpen to duck into the bathroom, she said she left the child unattended for no more than five minutes.

That's all it took.

By the time Laster returned to the living room, Kennedy had managed to climb out of the playpen, slip out a sliding glass door and into the swimming pool.


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"I found her floating face down," Laster, 26, said Monday from her daughter's hospital room at Plantation General Hospital. "I tried to stay calm."

A former lifeguard, Laster pulled her daughter from the water and began performing the CPR she had learned years ago but had never used on anything but a practice dummy.

As she worked on her daughter, she shouted at her brother to dial 911.

By the time police and paramedics arrived, Kennedy had thrown up the water she had taken in and was breathing, but shallowly, Laster said.

"I did not know if she would be OK until we got to the hospital," she said.

Karen Terry, Laster's mother, said her granddaughter was "doing excellent. She is up, alert, and going to make a full recovery."

The near-drowning Sunday afternoon is the latest in a series of swimming pool accidents that have claimed the lives of at least six children in Broward and Palm Beach counties in the past two months.

"I don't know what we could do to get these things to stop," said Jay Sanford, who runs Swim Central, Broward County's water safety program. "We are losing kids. We need to learn from previous mistakes."

The mistakes almost always begin with inattentiveness, experts say, and a lack of basic safety precautions.

"It is imperative that if a child has access to a pool, that pool have a fence around it," said Lauderhill police Lt. Gregory Solowsky. "There was no fence in this case."

In Palm Beach County, the Drowning Prevention Coalition on Monday cited the recent rash of South Florida fatalities and near-fatalities in issuing a news release reminding caregivers that "whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should supervise within an arm's length of the children."

Laster said her daughter's close call came about 5:30 p.m. Sunday. She put Kennedy in the playpen with a snack and figured she would stay there, she said.

"It happened so fast," said Laster, an admissions representative for a beauty school.

Laster said that although she never had to use CPR while working as a lifeguard years ago in New Jersey, "it was in my brain. Had I not known what to do during those four to five minutes it took [for help to arrive], it would be a tragedy."

Sanford said the rash of drowning fatalities and near-fatalities among children younger than five is alarming. "We need people to be water smart with their children," he said. "You have to know where they are. If you can't watch them, you have to restrict their access so they can't get out."

Three-year-old Brandon Paul St. Onge fell into his family's Coral Springs swimming pool and drowned Wednesday after he slipped away from his parents to ride his tricycle.

Two-year-old twins drowned in a Deerfield Beach pool in early April.