Aria Margaret Dunn was a beautiful, bright, happy 20 month old girl. She was the apple of her parent’s eyes and the much-loved little sister to her brother Jett.

On Sunday 11 December 2016, however the lives of the Dunn family changed forever.

Craig, Hollie, Jett and Aria spent the morning playing together outside. After lunch, the family were settling down before Aria’s afternoon nap by playing with the kids’ toys and watching a favourite movie “Despicable Me”.  Aria was being her normal, cheeky, playful self – having fun running around chasing daddy and Jett and dancing to the music in the movie.  When daddy finally said that it was bedtime, Aria ran up to mummy giving her big long cuddles and kisses before heading to her bedroom with her favourite comforters – her pink bunny and pink dummy.

A short time later, Craig got up to get a drink, and went to do a quick check on his little girl. It was then that he realised that Aria was not in her bed and that her bunny was on the floor near the back door, close to the dog door (the dog door was from previous owners for a small dog – the Dunn family owned larger dogs that were unable to fit through the dog door). Worried Aria may have ventured outside, Craig unlocked the security screen and went out into the backyard and saw Aria in the pool, floating face-down.  Panicked and screaming for assistance, Craig ran to his daughter and rescued her from the pool.  By this time Hollie had entered the yard and with Craig’s assistance, she began to perform CPR.  It was during this time that Craig and Hollie’s neighbours rushed to the house to render their assistance to the young family, having heard the commotion in the adjoining yard.  The neighbours took over the CPR and phone call to Emergency Services.

Once assistance had arrived in the form of neighbourhood friends, Hollie turned her attention to Jett (aged 4) and rang her family to alert them.

Even though in a traumatic situation, where help feels like a lifetime away, it was only 6 minutes from the beginning of the call to Emergency Services, to the time the Ambulance and Police officers were on the scene and rendering their assistance to the Dunn family.  One of the Police Officers that was first to arrive on the scene, was Hollie’s childhood best friend.  The officers assured Hollie and Craig that they were doing all that they could to help Aria on the scene and that they would shortly be taking her to the hospital for further care.  Whilst the ambulance and police were on the scene, Craig and Hollie’s neighbours took Jett next door to keep him occupied and to let Hollie and Craig focus on the situation at hand.  Craig’s mum also arrived on the scene during this time.

Craig and Hollie followed the ambulance to the hospital, and were met by Hollie’s family.  The staff at Campbelltown Hospital worked tirelessly to assist Aria and to reverse the damages that she had sustained, however, they were unsuccessful.  Craig, Hollie and their families were given the opportunity to say their farewells to their precious angel.

Sadly, the coverage of the story from the media was how the majority of Hollie and Craig’s friends and family were made aware of the tragic news.  Social media was rife with speculation, and criticism.   In addition to this, the desire for the family to return to their home was made difficult by the media, who were camped out, waiting for their story.

The support that the family received and continue to receive is overwhelming.

Smiles 4 Aria, was formed by the Dunn family and their support network, with the desire to help to support families suffering the loss of a child through traumatic circumstances.   Their hope is to raise awareness in regards to the tragedy of drowning, and to assist in lobbying the government for:

  • For swimming lessons to receive government funding for every child
  • For First Aid and Resuscitation (CPR) qualifications to be government funded
  • To provide care packages to families in need of support after a loss
  • To promote water safety awareness across the wider community

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