What could be done to help drowning swimmers? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

What could be done to help drowning swimmers?

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

August 5, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Funeral services will be held Thursday for a man who drowned trying to save a child's life. 

11-year-old Joshua Perry and his rescuer, 23-year-old D. J. Vinson both drowned Sunday evening in the Flint River.

Witnesses tell of a harrowing rescue attempt, and how a frantic, drowning little boy managed to overpower the grown man who was trying to save him.

DNR rangers say it's never a good idea to go into the water after someone who's drowning.

When you look at the Flint River, it's hard to see the hidden dangers underneath.  Think of the water churning like your clothes dryer.  Constantly spinning, the action can pull you under water and hold you there, trapping you.  It happened to one of the experienced divers Sunday during the rescue and it's why the experts say you should avoid swimming in areas like these and never go in the water after someone.

The Flint River is a popular spot for fishermen and can look attractive to swimmers from the surface, but underneath conditions can make it a dangerous place for both.

 "In some cases the water depth's is going to be a lot deeper than it looks.  Today it looks like it might be six seven foot all the way across, but there are going to be deep areas," Said Cpl. Scott Carroll of the Department of Natural Resources. 

In those deep areas, strong currents, but those currents can also be troublesome in shallow water, rolling over rocks visible at the surface.

"It can actually trap somebody up under that and constantly rolling that person and disorienting somebody and causing them not to even know what's up from down," said Carroll.

When someone's in trouble, Aquatic directors say there a good motto to follow.

"Reach, throw, or row, don't go," said Lee YMCA  Branch Development Director Judy Powell.

That means throw something that will float to the person in distress and encourage them to swim to shore.  If there's nothing to throw,  a broom, a jump rope, or even a branch can be placed in the water before you put yourself near them, because their first reaction is to grab whatever comes near them.

" There's already one person in trouble and there could be two people in trouble so you want to try to keep yourself on the land or on the deck and reach for them or throw something to them," said Powell.

Department of Natural Resources Rangers say the conditions in the Flint River change every day.  Tomorrow the river won't be the same as it is today.  That's why they discourage swimming in especially this portion of the river and anywhere there isn't lifeguard supervision.

The YMCA encourages everyone to learn to swim and they say it's never to late to learn, they offer classes from pre-school to adult.

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