Knowing how to be safe around water can be a matter of life and death.
May is drowning prevention month and some recent cases have made national news. A 4-year-old boy drowned off a beach in Kitty Hawk, N.C., in what some are calling a 'rogue wave.' A 12-year-old boy got stuck under water in Myrtle Beach at the Avista Resort pool. He was safely rescued.
There have been six drowning deaths in York County since 2016, according to the coroner's office. The ages were 3, 19, 29, 40, 52 and 59. There were more than 3,500 accidental drowning deaths from 2005-2014 in the United States, about 10 deaths per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Of those who die from drowning, one in five are children 14 years old or younger, according to the CDC.
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Parents and guardians should be vigilant when children are near bodies of water -- even pools, says Harry Truesdale, aquatics director with the Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill.
That means putting down the phones, he said.
"We’re in the phone age right now," Truesdale said. "We've observed parents on their phone rather than looking at their child swimming.”
Truesdale recommends that people use pools that are manned by lifeguards, and be mindful of slippery decks. He said children should not run around pools and should follow all rules.
He said everyone also should make sure all pool gate fixtures are working properly.
Dry drowning can be a risk after children accidentally swallow water, especially if it is salt water, Truesdale said.
“Dry drowning” occurs when fluid leaks into a person’s lungs, often after swimming and among young children. Dry drowning and secondary drowning’s symptoms can easily go unrecognized, medical experts say. Parents should take children to the hospital immediately if they believe their child has swallowed water and is having trouble breathing, Truesdale said.
A 4-year-old boy from Texas City, Tex., died last June, a week after his family went swimming. His symptoms seemed to resemble a normal stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea, until one day, he stopped breathing. He was a victim of "dry drowning"
Recent heavy rains also raised local concerns about safety on natural bodies of water.
On April 25, Charlotte firefighters helped rescue a kayaker who became stranded in debris on the South Fork of the Catawba River. The rescue, in Belmont in Gaston County, took about 2 hours.
On the lake
Debris can be a safety problem for boaters and swimmers on Lake Wylie, said Sgt. Brent Mabry, lake enforcement and dive team supervisor of the York County Sheriff's Office.
"One of the main things we run into when the water gets high on Lake Wylie itself is a lot of debris washing down from construction sites or just washing off the shoreline," Mabry said. "You have to be careful and watch the floating debris."
The best way boaters can stay safe is to wear a life jacket, Mabry said. Life jackets are required to be on the boat for every person on board, he said.
"We really don't want them stored in a compartment somewhere," he added. "You want them to where you can get to them quick, if you need to."
An additional way to keep boaters from drowning is keeping a floatation device on board to toss to a person stranded in the water, Mabry said.
"If you're in a boat over 16 feet, you're required to have a throwable floatation cushion," he said. "I would suggest a rescue throw bag because they are a lot easier to throw than one of the cushions and a little bit more accurate in trying to get it to somebody that might need some help."
Boaters also should be aware of their location, so when emergencies arise, rescuers know where to find them, Mabry said.
"Even the color of a house you are looking at will, a lot of times, give us a clue as to where you are," he added.
Finally, limit alcohol consumption, Mabry said.
"It seems like everyone thinks that when they get out on the lake, they have to see how much they can drink," Mabry said. "That just breeds a lot of trouble."
And in case of a storm, Mabry suggests pulling everyone to the center of the boat to distribute the weight. Make sure to keep bilge pumps maintained to keep the boat from taking on too much water, Mabry said.
Always keep a fire extinguisher on a boat, Mabry said, and know how to operate it "before a fire is in progress."
Mabry said boaters should consider taking a water safety course. The S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources, the Catawba Power Squadron, the York County Sheriff's Office, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary, among others, offer classes.
Water safety tips:
- Learn life-saving skills: Children should learn how to float, move through water, and perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation.
- Build pool fences: Pools should be enclosed by a four-sided fence with self-closing, self-latching gates. Fences should separate the pool completely from the play area and the house.
- Wear life jackets: Children should wear life jackets in and around bodies of water such as lakes and the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Children who can't swim well should wear them when near pools.
- Watch closely: When children are in or near water, they should be closely supervised at all times by a non-distracted adult.
- Information from the CDC.
Swim lessons are offered through various organizations in York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
- Swim lessons are offered through the City of Rock Hill at local recreation centers. Registration begins May 7. Participants can register on a first come, first served basis at Rock Hill City Hall in Room 390, the Boyd Hill Recreation Center, the Emmett Scott Recreation Center, Fewell Park Center, Northside Recreation Center, Cherry Park and Manchester Meadows.
- The City of Tega Cay offers swim lessons at the Beach and Swim Center, 4088 Club Ln. Group sessions are offered June through August and are $70 per session, which includes eight classes. Semi private lessons are offered at $100 per child and private lessons are $120. Costs listed are for members; non-members pay $20 more. Registration is available online or at the Beach and Swim Center office.
- Swim lessons are available at the Anne Springs Close Greenway Recreation Complex pool in Fort Mill. Classes are open to babies 8-26 months old with a parent for $45, children 3-10 for $70, youths 11-15 for $70 and adults 16 and older for $70. Complex members receive a $10 discount for babies and a $25 discount off all other classes. The Town of Fort Mill soon will be taking over the complex. Swim teams and lessons will be offered through the Fort Mill school district.
- Lancaster County Parks and Recreation offers swim lessons for ages 3-18 at the Springdale Recreation Center's Wylie Street pool. Online registration is open for sessions, which are offered in June and July. Sessions are $50 per person. The pool opens May 26.
- Upper Palmetto YMCA offers swim lessons each summer at certain locations.