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Mom accused of using cellphone while kids were drowning

In a story that is heartbreaking on so many levels, a Texas mother of five has been arrested after three of her children drowned in an apartment pool last month while in her care.

Thirty-year-old Patricia Denise Allen of Irving, Texas, was arrested for a second-degree felony on one count of injury to a child on Friday. Allen was released the next day on a $50,000 bond, according to police. Irving police spokesman Officer James McLellan says the second-degree felony charge has not been filed yet but punishment could range from two to 20 years in prison.

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The most troubling part of this story hinges on what this mother may have been doing while her five kids were swimming in the apartment pool. According to police reports, Allen had taken her five children to the pool on June 24. While Allen was playing with her two younger children, ages 3 and 4, her three older children had gone underwater in the deep end. Allen was reported to have had her back turned and did not see that her three older kids were underwater until a witness told her what had happened.

This witness also told police that Allen was texting on her phone while playing with the younger kids in the pool. “(The witnesses) walked up to the pool and saw the mother sitting on the edge of the pool looking outward toward the deeper end of the pool and also observed that the water was still and calm, that there was no flapping or splashing or bubbles in the water. It was at that point that the mother stepped out,” said Officer McLellan.

Allen and her children did not know how to swim, and the children were not using flotation devices in the pool. Eleven-year-old Anthony Smith, 10-year-old August Smith and 9-year-old Treshawn Smith were pulled from the water and died at the hospital.

Officer McLellan said of Allen’s charges, “This is a difficult case. This lady has suffered the loss of three of her children, and we don’t believe she set out to in any way to harm these children.”

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After reading this story, my heart is broken. It’s easy to see a story like this circulated on social media and point the finger. No matter what you might say in criticism, there is no way this mother is not feeling the weight of her loss right now. On top of criminal charges, she has to live for the rest of her life knowing that her alleged negligence caused the death of her kids. That kind of guilt is worse than any prison sentence she could get.

As heart-wrenching as this story is, it’s still an important reminder for every parent reading: Water safety is not a joke, even as your kids get older. I’ve seen more parents texting at the pool than I can count — this mom’s behavior was not abnormal, but it could have been careless. Both parents and kids need swimming lessons to prevent this type of tragedy. At any age, kids should be monitored in the water at all times. And maybe it’s time for pools to institute a new rule: Parents, don’t bring your cell phone to the pool.

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