EDITORIAL: Region needs to address water safety issue

2014-06-18T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Region needs to address water safety issueBy The Times Editorial Board nwitimes.com
June 18, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Here in the region, we need to do a much better job of water safety instruction. The recent spate of drownings — an annual occurrence, sadly — drives this home.

Jose Alcazar, 18, jumped off a pier with his friends Monday night at Whihala Beach in Whiting. Alcazar drowned.

His older brother said Alcazar couldn't swim.

As if this story isn't tragic enough, it comes on the heels of another tear-jerker episode Saturday in Hobart, where two Gary brothers — Donel Smith, 9, and Terrion Smith, 8 — drowned in a water-filled pit.

That pit has since been drained and filled. 

This is a time to mourn these young victims, but it is also a time to take action so there will be fewer victims in the future.

Drowning is a tragedy repeated every summer in the region.

The Great Lakes Water Safety Rescue Project tracks drownings only in the Great Lakes as well as providing safety lessons. The statistics are staggering.

As of Monday, there were 15 Lake Michigan drownings so far this year. That compares to just one drowning by the same date last year, the organization said.

Lake Michigan's beaches are enticing, but the lake can be deadly.

As a region, we need to instruct Lake Michigan visitors how to swim with the rip current or, better yet, stay out of the water when warnings are posted.

We need to warn children of dangers below the surface of the water that might not be obvious to someone preparing to dive in.

We need to limit access, where feasible, to sites where the water is particularly deep or where the sides of holes, ponds and rivers are exceptionally steep.

But we also need to teach children how to swim so they can be safe when they encounter water. 

Swimming lessons are a vital safety precaution, especially here where there are so many bodies of water and where the number of drownings and near-drownings each year is so high.

As these recent deaths show, these tasks are urgent.

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