Editorial: Water tragedies are painful reminders of perils of nature

A 6-year-old boy from Cary remains in the hospital after an 18-foot boat struck him Sunday while he was swimming near a dock in the Fox River near Fox River Grove.

He had dived underwater, and the 19-year-old driver of the boat, who witnesses said was going slowly, didn't see the boy in the murky water and rolled over him. The driver has not been cited.

The boy is being treated at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

A 6-year-old girl was found face down and unresponsive in the water at Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake Tuesday afternoon. Witnesses pulled her out and with the help of a lifeguard performed CPR on her until paramedics arrived. She, too, is recovering at Lutheran General.

The body of Eric Elam, 35, of Elgin was found less than a mile downriver 15 hours after witnesses reported seeing him go into the Fox River near Festival Park after Elgin's Fourth of July fireworks show.

Witnesses' reports differed. Some said he waded into the river near the Grand Victoria Casino and stumbled in; others said he rolled into the water.

Two close calls - both children are stable - and one man dead.

It happens as surely as the changing of the seasons: tragedy on the water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4,000 people drown in the United States each year; drowning kills more children between 1 and 4 years old than anything but birth defects; and drowning is the second leading cause of accidental injury death of children through age 14, eclipsed only by vehicular crashes.

Water is powerful and unpredictable in equal measure. Adding people to the mix is never something to be taken lightly.

We pray for the recovery of both 6-year-olds.

There isn't enough information available on all three cases to know whether anyone is to blame, and, besides, that is not our intent.

We should all try to learn from these cases that our lakes, rivers and swimming pools require a certain amount of caution. Here are some helpful reminders from the CDC:

• Watch kids closely both in and around water. It's unlikely they'll thrash around before going under, so don't count on those cues.

• Stay away from alcohol while supervising kids or before swimming or boating yourself. Sun only exacerbates the effect of alcohol, rendering your judgment and coordination compromised.

• Learn to swim and make sure your kids can swim or at least float.

• Learn CPR.

• Always use life jackets when boating, and make sure they fit.

Enjoy the water, but respect it.

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