Practicing water safety as summer months arrive

 Lake Gogebic State Park (WLUC photo)
Lake Gogebic State Park (WLUC photo) (WLUC)
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 11:19 AM CDT
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By Samantha Serbin | June 23, 2020 at 7:09 PM EDT - Updated June 23 at 7:41 PM

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - With summer officially here and the Fourth of July right around the corner, many families may be hitting the water for some fun.

News Leader 9 wants to keep you and your family safe as you venture out.

Whether it’s open water like the river or a more controlled setting like a pool, water can present serious dangers, especially for children. A personal flotation device and swimming lessons are the top two things you can do to prevent a drowning.

“It will never get easier,” said Keith Hobbs. “There will always be that hole that will never be filled. There’s always going to be that pain that will never go away.

Five years have come and gone since Hobbs lost his son Logan to complications from a pool drowning accident. It’s a pain he doesn’t bare alone.

Cieria Melton lost her son Jeremiah Henderson summer 2019 in the Chattahoochee River.

“He was reaching down to touch the water and from what I got, he slipped in the water and the current got the best of him,” Melton said.

Melton and Hobbs are just two parents who are now hoping to save someone else’s life by sharing their stories. The biggest takeaway is having a properly fitted, coast-guard approved life jacket anytime you’re near water.

“I was told a life jacket probably could have saved Jeremiah,” Melton said.

Swimming lessons are also important and the younger you start the better.

“Drowning is very silent. It’s not a loud splashy thing like so many people think it is,” said Pam Fair from Safe Kids Columbus.

“It was just a second. They either walked away for just a second or they turned away for just a second. It always happens so fast,” Hobbs said.

Designating a specific person to watch the water and knowing CPR are also good habits to prevent a tragic drowning. Melton said your children may be frustrated, but better safe than sorry.

“To me, the way I’ve been looking at it is it doesn’t matter if your kid gets mad at you. It doesn’t matter if your kid gets sad at you. When it comes to dealing with water, you would rather them be mad and sad and get back on track later and have them here,” Melton said.

You need to keep safety in mind and wear a personal flotation device. At the river it’s required as a Columbus city ordinance. Sometimes, things happen and it’s important to know what to do if yourself or a loved one slips and falls into the water. If it’s a loved one, there’s a technique called “reach and don’t go.” Try to extend something or lie down and extend out something to that person that’s in trouble in the water and then pull in.

Captain Scott Boatner with the Columbus Fire Department gives advice in the event you fall into the river. “We don’t want you to get hung up with your feet, so you keep your feet up like we call defensive swimming, which is basically when you’re staying above the water with your feet up. So, you’re basically just flowing down the river,” said Boatner.

Another thing to keep in mind is to wear highly visible clothes and put your children in bright clothes as well. That way, in case anything were to happen, first responders can easily see you and pull you to safety as soon as possible.

Boatner said over time, people have come to respect the river more than they used to, but it’s always important to think safety first because it could save your life.

Copyright 2020 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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