Great Lakes drowning cases spike over holiday weekend
The Fourth of July weekend saw a surge of drownings and near-drownings, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) reported.
“And with the warm water temperatures this early in the summer season, I believe we are about to enter a turbulent summer surf season,” GLSRP Executive Director Dave Benjamin said in a news release.
There were six Great Lakes drownings and near-drownings, bringing the 2020 total to 25. For comparison, there were 97 in 2019, according to the GLSRP, which combines drownings and near-drownings into a single category. Of the 863 Great Lakes drownings and near drownings in the last decade, 2017 saw the most victims, at 117, the organization said.
The World Health Organization defines drowning as experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. Drowning has three outcomes: non-fatal, non-fatal with injury, and fatal, according to WHO.
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At least three of the holiday weekend’s incidents resulted in a fatality, GLSRP said.
Five of the incidents took place in Lake Michigan and one in Lake Erie. Of the five that happened in Lake Michigan, four took place in Illinois and one was along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan.
The victim at Sleeping Bear Dunes was a 19-year-old man who drowned after swimming out to a sandbar 180 feet from the shore, according to the GLSRP. The Coast Guard pulled him from eight feet of water and were unable to revive him with CPR.
Benjamin said factors related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may be behind the spike, including “cabin fever” from months of isolation. And, with public pools still largely closed, people have been flocking to beaches, many of which lack lifeguards.
None of this is helped by the fact that many swimmers greatly overestimate their swimming abilities. Environmental factors, such as beach erosion and rising water levels, also play a part in drowning.
In case you notice someone drowning, Benjamin advises people to make sure someone is calling 911. Untrained swimmers are advised not to go into water to make a rescue, as would-be rescuers often find themselves drowning victims instead, Instead, you should throw a floatation device to the drowning individual.
For more information about water safety, visit the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s website.
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