JURUPA (CBSLA.com) — Fire officials in Riverside County have unveiled a countywide water safety campaign to help protect children in response to what officials are calling a “disturbing number” of recent drownings and near-drownings.

Emergency responders in Riverside County reported 19 near drownings and two deaths between January and June 2014. So far this year, 21 non-fatal and five fatal incidents were reported – including the deaths of two children under age five, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

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CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins came together Tuesday with other local officials to urge the public to be vigilant.

“I’ve been doing this for 52 years, and these things shock me every time I hear them,” Hawkins said.

“These statistics are frightening and tragic,” he added. “Parents and all other adults must supervise children closely near the water. A second of distraction may end in tragedy.”

In April, two near-drowning cases involving 3-year-old children were reported in Norco and Murrieta — both unrelated cases in which children were left unattended in swimming pools and were saved by bystanders.

Serena Smith almost lost her son 13 years ago when he was just two. The boy was found at the bottom of a pool, not breathing.

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“Seeing my child so incoherent … broken blood vessels in his face. I just kept asking what happened,” she recalled at the event.

Smith’s story ended with her son surviving. She hopes going public with the ordeal will help save lives.

The safety campaign involved about two dozen or more county departments, including Department of Public Health, Emergency Services Department, CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, the Children and Families Commission, the Park and Open Space District, the Department of Public Social Services and the Environmental Health Department, officials said.

Besides good supervision here at the pool, county officials are urging parents to learn CPR.

They also urge parents not to leave children, especially young children, alone in the water — even for a moment.

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