Water patrol officials in Kansas and Missouri say a combination of factors has led to more drownings so far this year than in all of 2012.
In Missouri, 24 drownings were reported before the weekend, four more than last year. And in Kansas, 12 drownings were reported in the same period, double the average for an entire year, The Kansas City Star reported.
The pleasant summer weather might be a factor; Last summer’s drought dried up swimming holes but the mild weather has drawn people to waterways this summer, said Cpl. Scott White of the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Most of the drownings occurred in lakes and ponds, and many people “think they are better swimmers than they actually are,” said Cpl. David Campbell of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Often there’s alcohol involved.”
Kalan Littlefield, 17, had ignored his family’s demands to wear a life jacket June 16 when he fell off a watercraft at a 60-acre pond on a family’s property in Kingsville, Mo. Kalan was a strong swimmer and was set to be the starting quarterback at Holden High School in the fall. But he never surfaced. His aunt jumped in to try to save him, “but the bottom was too muddy and she couldn’t find him,” said Kalan’s mom, E’Leka Littlefield.
People who are drowning “go into a kind of trance,” said Maj. Dan Hesket, boating law administrator with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “They can’t see and they can’t hear,” he said. “They get into the muddy silt on the bottom and they are confused.”
And when the bottom of the lake suddenly drops off, it can startle a swimmer or someone wading, Campbell said. “It takes only seconds for someone to panic, swallow a bit of water and they are in trouble.”
Hesket said jumping in to rescue a drowning person should be a last resort because someone who is drowning will grab onto the first thing that touches them and then push their rescuer under while trying to climb out of the water. Rescuers should first throw the person something to hold on to, or a flotation device before going into the water.
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