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posted: 6/18/2014 1:01 AM

Editorial: Don't let summer outings turn tragic

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Two men jump off a boat in Pistakee Lake. One drowns after the boat drifts away.

A 3-year-old leaves the pool for a snack and takes the inflatable "floaties" off his arms. He then returns to the pool and drowns.

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A kayaker goes over a low-head dam on the Fox River and gets caught in the undercurrent below and drowns.

A 15-year-old leaps off a dock into a lake at night. He never surfaces and is found drowned.

A man drowns in Lake Marie, and a coroner says alcohol contributed to his death.

A 6-year-old goes into a retention pond near his Naperville home. He drowns.

Three boys, none wearing life preservers, launch a canoe in a pond in McHenry County. It capsizes and a 13-year-old drowns.

A man jumps off a boat in Lake Villa's Deep Lake and tries to swim to shore. He drowns.

Those are just a few local drowning tragedies in recent months that often began with a fun outing on a warm day and ended with a death.

All might have been prevented, some with obvious measures like wearing life preservers and closely supervising young children. But sometimes the danger is more subtle. Overestimating swimming ability, failing to take into account the toll of icy water or underwater hazards, neglecting to make sure there's a way back onto a boat, misunderstanding water currents -- all contribute to drownings.

Drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death, with men and children 4 and under most at risk, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. African-Americans also are more likely to drown, the CDC says, attributing that in part to less access to swimming pools and lessons.

The sad examples above reflect the many ways in which disaster can strike. They might lead you to one conclusion: Stay out of the water. For very young kids that's a sound policy, unless a sober, responsible adult is within an arm's length and keeps an unwavering focus on that child. For most others, the opposite is the case. Swimming lessons -- and the accompanying water safety instruction -- are one of the best ways to prepare to survive a water emergency, public health experts say. Local YMCAs and park districts have lessons across the suburbs, sometimes with low-cost options for families who need them.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources lists boating safety classes and resources, another crucial component of preventing drownings.

Among other ways to stay safe: Don't swim alone; don't swim at night, when hazards can't be seen and others can't see you; keep a phone charged and nearby; and learn CPR.

It might sound like a lot of preparation for what should be a carefree day at the beach or pool. But our pages are full of too many stories of people who learned the hard way. We don't want you to be among them.

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