Carissa’s Caution Turns Tragedy Into Lessons on Water Safety

Local Mother Shares Her Story and Her Desire to Make a Change
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 7:21 PM EDT
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - The weather is warming up in North Central West Virginia and maybe you’re thinking about heading to your favorite swimming hole. But with fun in the sun can come dangerous situations.

Ian Roth visited a local woman who’s turning a personal tragedy into a reason to teach others the importance of being safe in the water.

”You know, we thought we were a water safe family. We had done swim lessons,” said Heather Murray, the co-founder of Carissa’s Caution. “We had talked to the kids, you know, ‘Don’t run around the pool! You know, ‘We have to be safe!’”

That’s what she thought about her young, fun-loving family nearly six years ago. When it came to looking over her step-daughter, Carissa, Heather was a confident mother. That was until a dark day in August 2015.

“As an adult - as a parent - I’m always going to be there when they need me, right? You just know when your child needs you, you’re going to be there, and I wasn’t.”

Nine-year-old Carissa drowned when she got caught in a current in a river away from her family. Thinking about it now...Heather can still remember the impact her step-daughter had on others.

Fighting back tears, Heather said, “Carissa was such a beautiful person. She was our little Rockstar. We called her a rock star because she was just so bright. She could talk to anybody and have them telling her whole life story and smiling and happy. And she was just a beautiful soul.”

Instead of spiraling into what she described as a “dark place,” Heather saw an opportunity to teach others about water safety in Carissa’s memory.

“August twenty-eighth of 2015 I started searching ‘child drowning’,” she recalled.

In her search she found a new way to cope, “I found some amazing families and Families United to Prevent Drowning and they just took me in...and we started Carissa’s Caution in Carissa’s memory.”

Now, years later, books, pamphlets, and collaborations with other victim’s families are just few small pieces of what Heather hopes becomes a much bigger conversation in the future.

“I really do! And there are so many great groups. There are so many other families like myself,” she says about the people she’s met in her journey.

When things look bleak, Heather is always reminded of Carissa in her team members, “You know, they have learnt from Carissa and they have also said, ‘Heather we’re not going to let that light die, we’re going to keep it going.’”

Even if just one life can be saved by keeping it going that would be a success for Carissa’s Caution.

Heather tells 5 News if you or anyone you know wants to learn more or needs someone to lean on because of tragedy in the water, she is always available to talk through their website

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