News 3 Special Report: Drowning, A Clear and Present Danger - WRBL

News 3 Special Report: Drowning, A Clear and Present Danger

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Summer fun often means spending time in the water, whether at the pool, the beach, the lake, or the river.  But in an instant, a joyful outing can turn tragic when a drowning occurs. 

We've all seen it portrayed in the movies and on TV...a drowning scene where the victim is flailing around in the water, screaming for help.  Not all drownings involve victims who exhibit frantic behavior.

Water safety instructor Sue Lopez, marketing director with the Columbus Aquatic Center, describes a more subtle drowning scenario.  "You're using all of your energy to keep your nose and your mouth above water.  There's not really an opportunity to scream and yell for help.  It's usually kind of silent and it just happens and people are usually not aware, taken by surprise that the person right next to them was in trouble." 

Lopez recalls a situation when she was a lifeguard and had to rescue a young child.  "He had gone just a little too far out and he was on his tiptoes and it was just his nose and his mouth sticking out and there was so much activity around him, nobody really noticed him.  Silently he just kind of went under."

If there's a takeaway here, it's that you need to be aware of those around you when you're in the water.  They could be in trouble and not necessarily show panicked behavior. 

Lieutenant Daniel Macon with Columbus Water Rescue spends most of his time helping folks who get in trouble swimming in the Chattahoochee.  He and his team put on a demonstration recently at the Columbus Aquatic Center, showing how they search for drowsing victims in the river. 

Macon says many who get in trouble are reluctant to call for help.  They think they can get out of the situation and don't want to call attention to themselves.  So they don't call for help and it's too late.

Macon says following a few simple guidelines could prevent a family outing from turning into heartbreak.  "I've seen kids playing within two to three feet of the (river) bank.  Just a simple slip could have them washed down river a quarter of a mile.  If you've got life preservers on, that's 90 percent of what you can do to help yourself...and staying away from the water's edge if you don't know how to swim.  Always swim with a partner.  Always swim with someone who is competent.  That would take care of 99 percent of the problem."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, on average, there are around 3,500 accidental drownings in the U.S. each year.  For those between the ages of one and fourteen, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.   

Phil Scoggins

After taking 16-year break from broadcasting, Phil rejoined WRBL as a news anchor where he has been ever since. More>>

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