Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 24, 2014

Safety crucial to saving lives

Kokomo Tribune

---- — It’s been two weeks since a trip to Edinburgh for a swim in the Big Blue River ended in tragedy for the community of Franklin.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah McLevish became trapped by water rushing over a dam. Four boys went in after her.

The body of 17-year-old Jason Moran was found three days later. Michael Chadbourne died in a hospital several days after the accident.

McLevish remains in critical condition and is breathing with the help of a ventilator.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources reported last week at least 28 open water drownings so far this year, with 12 of those victims 18 years old or younger. That’s compared to nearly 30 drowning deaths in all of 2013, including three children, the Journal & Courier of Lafayette reported.

Parents are being reminded of the importance of water safety. The American Red Cross has some tips to keep families safe.

First of all, learn to swim. There are lots of swimming courses available. To find one nearby, contact the Red Cross at 765-459-4162, or visit the organization’s website at redcrossofnci.org.

Even if you know how to swim, never swim alone, and avoid swimming in areas without a lifeguard.

Watch children around water, no matter how skilled they might be and no matter how shallow the water. Try to keep younger children within an arm’s length.

Equip children or inexperienced swimmers with U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices, but never rely on those as a substitute for parental supervision. Such devices can suddenly shift position, lose air or slip away, leaving the child floundering in the water.

When swimming at a lake or reservoir, select an area that has good water quality and safe natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs and aquatic plant life are hazards.

Read and obey all rules and posted signs.

The Red Cross also urges parents to set water safety rules based on swimming ability. For example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep.

It suggests paying attention to local weather conditions and forecasts, and it urges everyone to stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.

Unless the area is clearly marked for diving, the Red Cross urges swimmers always to enter the water feet first.

Never mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.

It’s a good idea to stay away from drinks containing alcohol or caffeine. They can make you feel good briefly, but they end up making the heat’s effects on your body worse.

The water can be a great place to cool off on a hot day, but tragedy can strike in an instant. Let’s all be careful out there.