Aug 252010

oe Rumley, of Greenesboro, N.C., said it was very difficult for the entire extended family when his 2-year-old son Nathanael drowned in a bathtub in Prescott Valley earlier this year. Rumley said his ex-wife would send him photos of Natty looking at books and playing with blocks, and he was always such a happy child.

“In a perfect world, everyone would see what happened to Natty, and they would take notice,” Rumley said.

But many people don’t think a drowning will happen to them or their loved ones, he said.

“I just don’t want this to happen again,” said Rumley, who attended counseling with his ex-wife and their children after Natty’s death.

People should watch their children at all times around water and take precautions themselves as well, especially when they go out on lakes and other waterways, said Eric Kriwer, spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department.

While many people have heard that Arizona ranks second in the nation for drownings of children under 5 years old, most may not know that drowning in rivers and lakes is the third leading cause of death for teens in our state, Kriwer said.

In addition to Natty’s death, in the past year one man drowned while trying to retrieve a remote-control boat that had gotten stuck at Watson Lake in Prescott, and a Mayer boy drowned after he was swept away from the back of his family’s truck by floodwaters.

The Prescott City Council recently proclaimed August as Drowning Impact Awareness month. Prescott City Council is working with the Prescott Fire Department, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s Water Watchers is distributing 10,000 purple ribbon cards with river and lake safety tips to fire, police, and other groups around the state.

To enjoy lakes and waterways safely, people are urged to wear a properly fitting life vest at all times, to stay within touch distance of children and others who are not strong swimmers, to learn CPR and never operate a boat or other watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“When people go out on our lakes and waterways we want them to be totally prepared for the environment,” Kriwer said. “During the fall and early spring it’s warm, but the water temperature is still cold. People need to be properly dressed. It also tends to be windy and can stir up whitecaps which can overturn small boats or watercraft, leaving people stuck out in the middle of the lake.”

Kriwer said kayakers should wear wetsuits, and people out canoeing should wear light, water repellent clothing, because clothing that holds water can cause a person to go underwater more quickly. People should also take weather conditions, their skill level, and the environment into consideration when planning an outing.

“If you’re not experienced at kayaking or canoeing on the lakes, make sure you have the right conditions – calm weather – before heading out, or get some training” Kriwer suggested. “And always wear a personal flotation device.”

The soft soils around local lakes and waterways can give way and bring you into the water as well, Kriwer said. Years ago, some children were playing along Lynx Creek when the bank they were standing on gave way, and they were swept into the creek, he added.

Also, just because water seems calm where you are, don’t assume there isn’t fast moving water downstream.

“Fast moving water may conceal tree branches and other debris that you can get caught on,” Kriwer said.

For further information on water safety, please contact the Prescott Fire Department at (928) 777-1700.

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