Mario Vittone, a trained rescue swimmer and former member of the Coast Guard, has written extensively on drowning. I came across his article on Slate recently and was grateful for his insight when I read it. Here are 3 things I took away –
- We are conditioned by television to recognize drowning by a mix of waving, splashing, and screaming. In real life, drowning is almost deceptively quiet. It is the second highest cause of accidental death in kids below age 15. And, at least in 10% of the drownings, the adults will have no idea it is happening.
- When folks drown, they can’t call out for help or wave. Their bodies look vertical and their mouths appear to sink and reappear above the surface of the water. It doesn’t mean a person who is splashing and yelling in the water isn’t drowning. They are in aquatic distress but still have the power to do something about it – unlike in the case of drowning.
- And, in his words – “So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK—don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all—they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents—children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.”
We all spend time near the water. If you can, learn how to swim. And, once you do, be observant and safe.
Thanks, Mario, for sharing.