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Reminder: Drowning doesn’t look like drowning

I’ve posted this twice before, and with summertime officially upon us, it seemed like the right time to post it again.

The new captain jumped from the deck, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the couple swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine; what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not 10 feet away, their 9-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know—from 50 feet away—what the father couldn’t recognize from just 10? Drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew know what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for is rarely seen in real life.

Go read the whole thing, which was reprinted at Slate as well. There’s video here and a Today Show clip worth watching here. I read this story every time I see it, and as a parent of two water-loving children it scares the crap out of me every time. Stay safe, y’all.

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One Comment

  1. joshua ben bullard says:

    if your a parent and your children dont know how to swim and you turn your kids over to a caregiver over the summertime make sure you tell them your kids dont know how to swim so they wont take your kids to the swimming pool. its important to let babysitters know that your kids dont know how to swim=dont assume that they wont take your kids to a pool.

    joshua ben bullard

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