Dad Says 5-Year-Old Girl Nearly Drowned in Kiddie Pool Because of Those Popular Mermaid Tails

Adam Lisberg
adamlisberg/Twitter

Dad Adam Lisberg is speaking out after a common pool outfit sent one of his young daughters to the hospital. The New Jersey dad shared that his daughters, 5-year-old Annabelle and 7-year-old Ruby, were excited to show off their brand-new mermaid tails last week, but in a split second when his eyes weren't on her, Annabelle placed her arms inside her mermaid tail and nearly drowned.

  • The dad share his "scary story" on Twitter on July 1 as a warning to other parents and kids.

    As the dad explained in his post, his girls "love mermaids." So when Lisberg and his wife got an inflatable pool for their "isolated summer" it was a no brainer to order them "mermaid outfits."

    "Aren't they cute? Two-piece swimsuits with matching tails," he wrote.

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  • This wasn't the first time his daughters had worn the mermaid-style suits, either.

    The issue is that the "tails" bind the wearer's legs together, but as he explained to Today, they thought his daughters had enough experience that they'd be find in their new suits.

    "We knew that with it blocking their feet it's harder to kick or walk -- and they knew that -- but we figured (the pool) is two feet deep. Even if they sit down they can get themselves up," he explained.

  • Of course, anything can happen. Even in a pool of shallow water.

    Lisberg and his wife are usually good about vigilantly watching the girls while they play in the pool. On June 28, however, his attention was diverted when his 5-year-old son started making guacamole in the house while his sisters splashed around in the pool outside.

    "Every parent knows you have to watch every kid like a hawk, and you have to be careful all the time, but I thought, 'I have two girls in the pool keeping an eye on each other, right below the kitchen with the window open so I can hear them,'" he explained. "Meanwhile, I have a son who's about to squish avocados all over the kitchen."

  • The dad figured it was safe for him to go make guacamole with his son as long as he could see his daughters through the window.

    At one point, the dad said there was a false alarm. He heard the girls crying and raced outside -- only to find out it was a game. 

    But a few minutes later, no one was playing when Ruby came inside and told Lisberg that her sister wasn't moving.

  • Lisberg ran outside to find Annabelle lying on her side with her arms inside the mermaid tail.

    His daughter was unresponsive and, fearing the worst, he began rudimentary CPR on her, hoping to get her breathing again.

    "I'm thinking, 'This is not how it's supposed to end. It's a wonderful, happy Sunday afternoon, the girls are having so much fun in the pool, it's not supposed to end like this. But when I got over to her, her eyes were wide, she wasn't moving, and at first I really thought she was dead," the dad recalled.

    "Ruby explained that Annabelle had been under the water and she saw her there and was trying to talk to Annabelle, but she wasn't responding," the dad explained. "She got her sister completely out of the water. It was incredible."

    "I wish she had shouted something, but her first instinct was to protect her sister and she did," he added.

  • Eventually, paramedics and police arrived and were able to rush Annabelle to the hospital.

    For two days, Lisberg worried about his daughter's fate. When she was finally able to explain what happened in her own words, Annabelle told her father that she was "playing potato" and put her arms in the suit.

    "She pulled it up to her shoulders and ended up under the water," he said. "She tried to reach for the part she could pull off, but couldn't move her hands and bubbles came out when she tried to talk. I think that put her into shock -- she just realized that she couldn't do anything."

  • Unfortunately, Annabelle's story isn't unique.

    Mermaid tails can reduce a child's ability to swim up to 70%, according to a report by ABC News Australia. The findings come from a study conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which tested the swimming skills of kids 2 to 12 years old both with mermaid tails and without.

    "These products significantly reduce a child's movement in the water as they're quite binding in their nature holding their legs together," Lauren Nimmo, Royal Life Saving Society WA senior health promotion and research manager, told the news outlet.

    "The study really highlights the extent these products reduce a child's ability to swim, increasing their tiredness more quickly, and we know that children can drown in such a short period of time, so these factors really do increase the risk of a drowning tragedy," Ninmo noted.

    The study advised that children no younger than 7 wear tails when swimming, that children wearing tails need to be supervised at all times, and that they should never be worn in the ocean or natural bodies of water -- only controlled environments such as a swimming pool.

  • The Lisbergs said they feel "terribly guilty" that they weren't "literally watching the girls in the pool every single second."

    "We thought we were doing the very best we could, but that one terrible moment, when things can go wrong, happened," Lisberg told Today.

    The parents were finally able to bring Annabelle home on July 1. 

    She's "still the same giggly bubbly silly sparkly girl she was, just fighting us when we try to take the last two EKG leads off her chest," her dad wrote on Twitter that same day. 

    "We are indescribably lucky," he continued. "I cannot imagine what it's like to be the parent who didn't get lucky like this."

    He explained that he shared his story on Twitter to "haunt" other parents.

    "I share it because I want you to never take any kids' safety for granted, especially in water, no matter how shallow, even for a minute," he wrote in his thread. 

    That is why he's advising parents to "skip the mermaid tail" completely.

    "She'll be okay without it."

health & safety