Musician Granger Smith and his wife Amber Bartlett came under fire after their son River drowned at their family home. Since then, the couple has taken precautionary measures to ensure the incident never occurs again.
Country singer Granger Smith and his spouse Amber Bartlett lost their three-year-old son River who tragically drowned in a pool at home.
Recalling that fateful day in a YouTube video, Smith recounted playing with the couple's oldest child, London, doing gymnastics in the yard while River and his other siblings were having a water gun fight.
Actress Amber Bartlett and singer-songwriter Granger Smith arriving at the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on April 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. / Source: Getty Images
"Somewhere between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, we don't know; Amber and I are inside our pool gate doing CPR on our son," the father of four explained. River sadly died on June 6, 2019.
His father firmly believes that he was only meant to live on Earth for three years and stated that he lived his life to the fullest:
"I don't believe God takes anyone too soon."
The Texas native announced the death of his son on social media and revealed that he died from a "tragic accident." Smith wrote in a statement about how shattered the family was in the event of River's passing:
"Our family is devastated and heartbroken, but we take solace in knowing he is with his Heavenly Father."
The "Merica" singer requested fans to send donations to Dell Children's Medical Center in Texas in honor of River instead of sending gifts. He and Bartlett also donated their child's organs to other kids.
HOW SMITH & BARTLETT TOLD OTHER KIDS ABOUT THE DEATH
On how the couple broke the heart-breaking news to their other kids, they revealed in an episode of Dear Media's "Meaning Full Living" podcast that they were "honest" with their brood. Bartlett said they had that intention since leaving the hospital, to be open with the children when they arrived home:
"We said, 'River was without oxygen for too long. They did everything that they could, but Bubbie died.'"
The mom of four and her husband further explained that they allowed the kids to "process their emotions" and told them what they felt was "OK."
More than two years after losing River, Smith and Bartlett welcomed another son named Maverick in August 2021. The little one weighed seven pounds and measured 20 inches tall at birth.
Since River's death, the couple has been advocates for survival swimming for babies and have begun the process with their now-youngest son, Maverick. In May 2022, Smith posted a video of Maverick's ISR lesson and was impressed by his then-eight-month-old son's capabilities.
Meanwhile, his wife expressed fear saying that it is "scary" for parents to teach their kids to swim. Bartlett stated the process was challenging because she lost a child to drowning, and watching Maverick crying at first, pressured her to take him out of the water.
However, the actress noted that she refrained from doing that and trusted the process, which made her realize it was worth the trouble.
'IT'S TAKEN ME 3 YEARS' – FAMILY COPES WITH THEIR FEARS
Meanwhile, her husband has urged his social media followers to enroll their children in swimming lessons and use proper safety measures such as fenced pools, pool arms, or life jackets. After sharing a clip of Maverick floating on water, Smith said that he blew his mind:
"I never thought I would post something like this, but my mind is blown. He's in full clothes and a diaper. He can barely crawl, but now he knows how to hold his breath, twist his body, find the air, float on his back, and cry."
The proud father noted that his son now had the skills to float until help came if something were to happen. That is why he and his wife have become vocal about the importance of teaching young children how to swim in honor of their late son, River.
A month after his passing, Smith and Bartlett relocated, leaving their "dream home" and moving into a nearby house. The country crooner went back on tour, and his wife and kids came along: to support him for a while.
Smith told People in 2020 that going back to work helped with the grieving process but that the eerie guilt feeling lingered at the back of his mind, adding:
"I know that there's going to be a time when I'm going to forgive myself, but I'm not there yet."
He said when his son died, he died along with him. Meanwhile, Bartlett noted that she was unsure whether they would ever forgive themselves for the tragedy while stating that she hoped and prayed that they could, eventually.
While still battling the devastation of loss, the "Hot Air" star received hurtful comments on social media regarding the death of their child. People pointed out that the couple was to blame for the accident.
Bartlett had previously posted on her Instagram Story sharing words of comfort and encouragement to those who had lost children in their lives when a user replied:
"This makes me so mad! Why would you be such irresponsible parents?! Teach babies to swim, fence the pool, PROTECT your children! This is your fault; you KILLED your own kid. Truly disgusting."
In response, Bartlett shared a Bible scripture, James 3:6, which talks about the power of the tongue and how it can destroy. She said it had taken her years to avoid responding to social media trolls:
"I can't fault these people. We live in a fallen world. It's taken me three years to not let these comments hurt me, but I forgive them. I am rooted in Jesus."
Following the birth of Maverick, Bartlett and Smith were accused of casually replacing River with him. One social media user claimed that the couple seemed happy to welcome another child and that it appeared easy for them to decide to bring another offspring into the world.
The "Earthling" star revealed that she and her spouse often received such soul-destroying messages from people online. Bartlett stated that they should "think before you type or speak your opinion."
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