Elyria mom speaks out about drownings, warns parents

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - After over half a dozen Cleveland-area drownings since the spring, Brenda Simms of Elyria says she needs to speak out about the importance of water safety.

August 4 marks the 20-year anniversary of Simm's daughter's drowning death at Edgewater Park. At just 12-years-old, Ashley Lynn Watson had her whole life ahead of her.

"She reminded you of a tomboy - she'd climb a tree like nothing," described Simms.

On that fateful summer day, Simms says Ashley had begged her mom to let her go with her sister, her cousin and a family friend to the beach at Edgewater.

"They talked me into letting them go to the lake that day. I didn't want to let them go. They talked me into it. They rode their bikes down there with the adult with them, I had with them," said Simms.

Ashley headed into waist deep water with everyone, according to Simms, but suddenly something went wrong.

"A strong undercurrent pulled the one child under, and my daughter tried to get him, and it pulled her under as well. All four of them went under the water," said Simms.

Ashley drowned along with family friend, Robert Zunick.

This time of the year is tough on Simms, but the pain is even harder to bear, she says, when she hears of so many other drownings.

"I know what the families are going through when this happens. I just wish we could shut - close all the beaches and lakes down so this couldn't happen - even in pools in the backyard, we would watch them, but we were right there. There was a difference being right there. Parents just need to watch their kids," added Simms.

At the very least, Simms hopes that by continuing to share her story a life may be saved. Ashley didn't know how to swim.

Ashley would have turned 32 on August 1. Simms thinks about what Ashley may have been doing now.

"Probably married with kids, and I would have more grandkids," said Simms.

Simms will never know for sure what would have been. She says she can only hope now that others learn from her loss.

Kids should learn how to swim and wear life jackets - adults too. Even when there is a lifeguard present, she says, you have to watch your kids in the water. There was a lifeguard present when Ashley drowned, according to Simms.

"Even in pools, they wander. They think it's just mild water, shallow water nothing is going to happen, and it does happen," said Simms.

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