‘All it takes is a couple of seconds’ to drown: First responders urge citizens to be cautious on water

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WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Hot weather means many people may seek out bodies of water for refreshing fun; however, officials said people need to do so with caution.

Just last week, the Sugar Creek Fire Department responded to a water rescue call involving eight juveniles. Fortunately, they said, nobody was injured.

Before jumping in, first responders ask swimmers or people boating to look at weather conditions, river currents and to be sure they have the proper safety equipment.

“If you aren’t the strongest swimmer, you should probably avoid certain areas that are blocked off. We recommend the use of life jackets, they do save lives,” Jet Quillen, Public Relations Captain with the Indiana DNR said.

He said a dangerous misconception about a water related emergencies is the amount of time it takes to drown.

“It’s a blink of an eye. Sometimes things are happening and you don’t even realize it.. We’ve all seen the movies where people are drowning, thrashing and calling for help, but in reality that’s not how it happens. It can be a quiet thing,” Quillen stated.

A contributing factor related to drownings is overconfidence in swimming abilities.

Larger bodies of water such as lakes and rivers pose a threat to swimmers with debris floating in the water such like branches, logs, or jagged rocks.

“They’re unpredictable. You don’t know what’s under the surface of those waters, you don’t know how fast that current is going until you get into that’s when bad things can happen. “Some swimmers may cramp up, open their mouth and swallow a large amount of water, and not know what to do. Safety is important,” he said.

Anyone boating is asked to be aware of speed on the water and be mindful of alcohol consumption.

While water rescue teams, like Sugar Creek Fire Department, are on stand by; P.I.O. Josh Sittler says one danger is having to act quickly in an unpredictable situation.

“You don’t know what’s underneath you, you don’t know what’s ahead. You could get a faster current, a number of different things can happen,” Sittler said.

To join a water rescue team requires hours and weeks of extensive training, but Sittler says certain weather conditions can make missions more dangerous.

“With the way the river is going currently, we may not bale to catch up to you until Vincennes. Where does the Wabash River go to? It’s going to keep going, it won’t stop because of you,” Sittler said.

Anyone who sees someone in need of help in a water related emergency is asked to call 911 and wait for authorities to arrive.

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