On February 27th 2016, Eugene and Chereen received a phone call that would change their lives forever. During a day swimming at a local pool, their beloved 3-year-old granddaughter Melody had drowned.
It was like any other summer day. At a public pool, some of Melody’s family were holding a birthday celebration. Melody's mum wasn’t feeling well, so her partner took her to the gathering. He was tasked with taking care of a group of children, including Melody.
Melody was told to get out by her mother’s partner and to go join the rest of the family. He remained with the other children in the pool, assuming Melody had done as instructed. No one was watching when she went around to the other side of the pool and jumped back in.
Family found Melody in the water between 10 and 12 minutes later. Lifeguards and others present that day performed CPR for 60-minutes, but it was too late. Eugene and Chereen’s beautiful granddaughter had drowned.
‘I felt like my heart had been ripped out’
Despite the many adults (including lifeguards) who were present at the pool that day, Melody wasn’t under direct supervision when she jumped back into the water.
The tragedy shattered Eugene and Chereen's world. The grief of losing Melody was “indescribable” and in the years since they’ve often wrestled with the choices made that day.
‘No one else needs to go through what we went through, what we’re going through right now’
Eugene and Chereen’s message to caregivers is simple: have eyes on your children at all times around water.
Eugene says to people who have children: it’s a 100% ‘eyes–on’ situation. Not 90%. Somebody, some adult, has to be accountable and responsible for 100% ‘eyes-on’ that child.
‘The life of Melody was three years, but it has created this monumental lifetime impact on us’
Five years on, Eugene and Chereen are still grappling with the grieving process. Sharing Melody’s story helps with the grief but crucially, it honours her and her legacy. Eugene and Chereen embrace Melody’s legacy, particularly the lessons she’s left with them. The importance of family, the value in confronting grief and the fragility of a child’s life.
“To families who are going through a loss, there is more than just that loss. The tragedy doesn’t end the story.”
Water safety- what you need to know
- Stay within sight and reach of your child when in, on and around water.
- Only let young children in, on and around water when you are free to actively
supervise them at all times, without any distractions.
Learn more about water safety at starship.org.nz/safekids/drowning-3-4-years.
Need to talk?
Call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922
Depression helpline: Freephone 0800 111 757
Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone)
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Samaritans – 0800 726 666