NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Bradenton family shares story of child drowning to spread awareness and prevention

Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 10, 2022

HOLMES BEACH, Fla. — Everyone who knew three-year-old Lylah Bardwell adored her.

"She was vibrant and she exuded joy. People were drawn to her in this incredible way," said Courtney Bardwell, Lylah's mother.

But her time on this earth was short. Last April, Lylah’s father Tom says he left the room for a minute to take a phone call, and in that short time, Lylah opened the gate around her family’s pool, fell into the water, and drowned.

"I think about what happened that day, and I think about that glimpse of taking my eyes off of her," said Tom Bardwell.

Lylah is one of the 19 drownings or near-drownings of children in Manatee County last year.

"Lylah was more than just a number in that statistic. She was a vibrant three-and-a-half-year-old little girl who was so treasured in our family," said her mother.

Now they're sharing their painful story in hopes it may help save another child’s life.

Supporting them are Manatee County and Holmes Beach leaders and safety officials who want parents and grandparents to teach kids about the dangers of water, have a gate around pools, learn CPR, and always have someone designated to watch children in or around the water.

"The general message is to keep your eyes on your kids constantly, create barriers, create boundaries and where there’s water, make sure you’re watching," said Kevin Van Ostenbridge, Manatee County Commission Chairman.

Safety officials say drowning is a silent killer that can happen in seconds and in just inches of water. It's the number one cause of death for children under the age of five.

For Lylah's family, it's a life-shattering tragedy that they don’t want to happen to anyone else.

"I hope today if one person hears this and it changes the way they approach it and the way they share water safety with their kids, it's worth it to us," said Tom Bardwell.