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It is time for our annual summer safety briefing, a week before Memorial Day weekend. Multiple deaths from drowning have already made the news, and we know there will be more preventable deaths. The American military has a long tradition of weekly safety briefings, with the contents shifting with the season and occasion. Listen up, this is your water safety briefing for National Drowning Prevention Month.
May is National Drowning Prevention Awareness Month, but in the Valley, three children have already drowned in May.
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According to officials, adults can also be victims of drowning. So far, nine adults have drowned in 2021 in the Valley, and the most dangerous holiday – Memorial Day – is fast approaching.
Got to love “according to officials.” Safety briefings got to be so routine that leaders would search for ways to make them fresh. Sometimes, the youngest soldier would be called out of formation and directed to give an extemporaneous safety briefing. This created a rooting interest in the ranks, and showed that everyone really knew the content, the basics of the risks around them. Another technique was to offer clever saying or comedy:
Water and alcohol mix great in a glass,
NOT in the pool.
A friend just got back from tubing on a popular local river in Arizona. They reported they were delayed getting onto the river because emergency vehicles were blocking the road, trying to rescue a drowning victim. The victim did not seem to be responding to CPR. I have not yet found this story reported in the local news, but found plenty of other stories just from this past week in Arizona.
Whether floating down a river or boating on the lake or sea, it pays to have a designated driver, a lifeguard. Someone needs to be sober when, not if, people are on the edge of danger.
Canals are deadly.
A pleasant walk, run, or bike ride along a canal should be uneventful. Some canals are even stocked with fish for your sport. However, the appearance of a canal’s surface water can be very deceptive. There may be a faster running undercurrent, and the water may be deeper than any pool. Consider this Gila Bend canal drowning story with an illegal immigration angle:
This week, the bodies of three men were found in separate locations in the Paloma Canal near Interstate 8 and Paloma Road. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said the remains were found by an irrigation district employee on Sunday.
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In the dark, after walking for several days, migrants will sometimes stumble into them and can’t get out.
“The way canals are shaped, if you’re on top, it actually pulls you to the bottom,” said [Gila Bend mayor Chris] Riggs. “So, no matter what, they are getting sucked all the way to the bottom.”
The current in most canals can also be deceiving, as calm waters can be seen on the surface, but a faster current is normally flowing down below, ranging from 15 to 20 feet per irrigation canal.
Police, with the assistance of several civilians, recently rescued a paraplegic man whose motorized wheelchair tipped into a Phoenix area canal late at night.
How a man in a wheelchair came to be in a Phoenix canal last Sunday is unclear. One thing is for sure, he’s lucky to be alive after being carried away downstream and becoming trapped in the flowing water.
It was last Saturday near 36th Street and Baseline when a disabled man in a wheelchair somehow fell out of his seat and was swept 50 feet in the current before a metal grate stopped him. Witnesses who saw him floundering in the water called 911 and officers were soon on scene.
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“He was crying for help that’s how they knew he was there. If they weren’t there, I’m not sure what would happen it could have been really bad,” said [Phoenix police officer Jacob] Garcia. One of the bystanders had a rope laying around, so the officers used it to get the man out of the water. “I don’t know where he had rope from but thank God he did have a rope with him. By the time we got here he was able to fashion it somewhat into a loop to place around him,” said Hopkins.
Pools are kid magnets.
Every year small children drown in pools, and it is always a surprise. A one year old and a seven year old girl died in apartment pools this past week:
A 1-year-old girl, who was in critical condition Saturday following a near-drowning at an apartment complex pool near Baseline and Rural roads in Tempe, has died.
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There is no new information on the events leading up to the [
A 7-year-old girl died following a drowning at a Chandler apartment pool on Wednesday evening, authorities said.
Chandler police responded to a drowning call around 6:15 p.m. at a complex near Ray Road and Arizona Avenue.
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Police said Thursday that the girl, who resided with her family at the complex, had been at the pool by herself, but they didn’t know how she got into the gated area.
It is not just kids who die in pools. That old safety briefing about alcohol and water was based in decades of reports. We do not get the facts about intoxication or other impairment in public news reports, but they are likely at play in most adult pool drownings.
A woman has died after being found at the bottom of a pool at a home near I-17 and Carefree Highway, the Phoenix Fire Department said.
The woman was pronounced deceased at the scene by paramedics, the fire department said. The scene has been turned over to Phoenix Police Department.
No other details have been released.
However pleasant it is to get out of the heat and into a home pool, if no one is there with you, you will either self-rescue or not. Have a great Memorial Day weekend and summer. Enjoy the water, whether a pool, pond, river, or ocean. And. You know how to do so safely. To make the point with humor, I give you Foster Brooks: