An Echo Press Editorial: Drownings don't happen like they're shown on TV

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

Nobody wants a fun, relaxing day on the water to turn to tragedy.

But it can happen. In the blink of an eye.

Water safety experts say that drownings don’t play out like they’re shown in the movies or on TV. In most drownings, the victim isn’t frantically waving their arms and screaming for help. They just go silently under the water because of one problem or another, and aren’t noticed as missing until it’s too late.

That’s why it is so important to take precautions, make sure everyone in your group is accounted for and stay alert.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reporting that it’s been a deadly start to the open water season in the state. As of June 16, as many as nine people have been victims of boating fatalities. That number, which is preliminary, marks the most fatalities at this point of the year in more than a decade, according to the DNR.


In addition, a higher-than-average number of people have drowned at places like beaches and swimming pools. Here in Douglas County, the risk is higher this year because no life guards will be on duty at Lake L’Homme Beach and Lake Latoka Beach. (The county-managed beaches have never had lifeguards – just swim at your own risk signs.)

That’s yet another reason why everyone who is around the water should make safety their first priority.

The beginning of the summer season is traditionally a busy time of year on the water. This year has been even busier than usual – particularly in recent days as people sought respite from an abnormally long string of above-average temperatures. Unfortunately, the increase in activity also has resulted in unusually high numbers of people who didn’t make it off the water.

“There are too many families who won’t be seeing their loved ones again,” said Lt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division. “It’s up to everyone who heads for the water to double-down on safety and prevent what should be a fun experience from turning tragic.”

The victims who have drowned so far this season span the age, gender and swimming ability spectrum, the DNR reported. DNR safety officials offer the following tips for staying safe around the water:

  • Wear a life jacket. All children, and adults should wear a life jacket anytime they’re around the water. Each year even adults who are good swimmers go under the water and never resurface.

  • Avoid alcohol. Its effects are magnified on the water and the consequences can be deadly. About 40 percent of boating fatalities include alcohol.

  • Designate a “water watcher.” This person puts down their cell phone or other distractions and focuses only on watching the water to ensure everyone is safe.

  • Wade feet-first into the water to avoid jumping into an area where the current, depth and other conditions are unknown.

  • Constantly supervise children while they’re in or near the water. Looking away even for a moment is enough time for tragedy to strike. Drowning often doesn’t involve yelling, screaming and waving of the arms. Rather, it often occurs silently.

  • Swim only in designated swimming areas.

For more information about staying safe on the water, see the DNR’s boat and water safety pages.

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