With the recent summer-like temperatures, many people have been getting outdoors to enjoy Kentucky’s lakes and streams. If not careful, a fun day swimming or boating can turn tragic in a matter of seconds.
Conservation officers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources investigate boating accidents and fatalities on all waterways and reservoirs throughout the state. Often, they work alongside local partners in search and recovery efforts.
As of Friday afternoon, there had been 12 drownings in state waterways since the start of the Memorial Day weekend. The victims ranged from 17 to 52 years old. Each has been male, and the majority have been under age 30.
Every drowning represents a life lost too soon. The death of a loved one is heartbreaking for parents, siblings, extended family, friends and communities.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife would like to remind everyone to be safe on, in and around the water. The department urges everyone to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket while boating. Children younger than 12 must wear a lifejacket while in the open portion of a boat that is underway. Inflatable lifejackets are a viable option for people concerned about comfort.
“Swimming in a lake or jumping into a stream is much different from swimming in a pool,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rich Storm said. “There are no lifeguards. There are no walls to grab onto. There is often debris and logs that can entrap or injure you. The bottom can drop off sharply. The water can be cold and the current deceptively swift. Fatigue can set in quickly. It’s critical to know your abilities as a swimmer and do not take any chances.”
Other precautions the American Red Cross recommends:
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket around the water.
- Don’t swim by yourself.
- In the event of an emergency, do not go in because you could become a victim yourself. Instead, reach or throw an object to the person in trouble.
- Supervise children around water and avoid distractions. Stay within arm’s reach of young children.
- In group situations, designate a water watcher whose sole responsibility it is to oversee the activity in the water.
It is important to remember that swimming anywhere near a lock and dam can be dangerous because of unpredictable water levels and dangerous currents. Lifejackets must be worn when boating in hazardous areas near dams.