Warm weather means water safety issues

April 4, 2010 7:57:06 AM PDT
With a drowning death last weekend, a near drowning this weekend and more people getting into the water in Galveston, safety is becoming a bigger concern. The beach patrol says both swimmers were caught in rip currents and with the warmer weather, the beach is a popular destination. So officers with the beach patrol on the island are working to make sure swimmers stay safe in dangerous water conditions.

There are extra lifeguards on the beach this holiday weekend as record crowds migrate to the island city. However, in the midst of frolicking fun there is there is the chance danger can strike.

A sunny day on a lazy afternoon create a perfect opportunity to go to the beach, and one of the first destinations is to get into the water.

However, in the zeal to get wet, most forget to take a look at what's around them - signs and lifeguards warning of dangerous rip currents and staying away from sharp and piercing rocks around the pier. It's one of the obstacles encountered when swimmers are caught in rip currents.

"If anything, I'd try to struggle to the top. I don't know much else or what else to do," said one beachgoer.

"I would try to swim a different way a different direction," another beachgoer said.

Both strategies sound logical but the best way to stay afloat and survive is the one thing you might not think about when you feel yourself being pulled out by the rip current.

"If you just relax, if people knew to just relax and float and don't panic and don't do anything, the current will take you out and away from the rocks and around the rocks and eventually back to shore just on it's own," said Chief Peter Davis of the Galveston County Beach Patrol.

He says even strong swimmers can't fight a rip current, so the best strategy is to swim parallel to shore.

"In Texas, rip currents occur near rock jetties like this and they are basically a river that runs straight out into the ocean. So if you're about 100 feet from these piers, you're gonna be in a rip current," he said.

Chief Davis says if you see someone in distress, don't go to the swimmer, instead notify a lifeguard or go to one of the life ring buoy boxes placed along the seawall. The boxes are easy to open and the ring is thrown to the distressed swimmer. But sometimes the best advice comes from mom.

"We tell them not to go in above their waists and to stay as far away from the rocks as possible," said parent Kimberly Trafzer.

Chief Davis agrees. As for those buoy boxes, they are credited with saving 15 lives last year by beachgoers and fishermen using them.

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, swimmers trapped in rip currents account for 80 percent of all lifeguard beach rescues. Here are a few things to remember: Check the current conditions before you get in the water. If you're caught in a rip current, don't fight it. Swim out of the current, then to shore. If you can't escape, float or tread water while calling for help.


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