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Hennepin Co. Sheriff Urges Water Safety Measures

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Our hot, sticky summer has drawn more Minnesotans to the water, and more people into danger.

A 9-year-old girl drowned in an apartment swimming pool in Plymouth on Monday. A family friend jumped in to save her, but he also drowned.

They are just two of at least 15 people who’ve drowned in Hennepin County this year, including a record number last month. The sheriff’s office on Tuesday asked everyone to take steps to prevent more deadly accidents.

Jim Lupient Water Park in Minneapolis is a facility with a perfect safety record. They have lifeguards on duty and they have reach poles on hand as required by state law. But around any body of water, we need to use our heads.

It’s a hot day at the beach and the water is irresistible, but Mita knows her privilege of swimming comes with rules.

“We can’t go past the first or second bouy. We can’t go deeper than we can reach unless Marija is with us. Have to always be able to touch bottom? Yep,” she said.

Marija Holm is her nanny and recent news stories about children drowning have grabbed her attention.

“It makes me just more cautious of their safety and making sure I’m doing my duty as their caregiver,” said Holm.

“I’ve never recovered anyone that’s wearing a life jacket,” said Major Jeff Storms with the Hennepin County Water Patrol.

In 15 years as the head of the water patrol unit, Major Storms said a few basics have proven to be life-saving around the water.

For swimmers and spectators, limit alcohol, use life vests whenever possible, think ahead about what to do in an emergency and watch the water.

That last bit of advice about watching the water may sound simple. But it’s really about constant vigilence.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Susie Jones Reports

“For you to read a book or not pay attention, drownings happen quickly, “Storms said. “Some drownings occur in less time than you can imagine. You can read one page of your book and somebody could be under water. It’s extremely important to make sure you watch that water.”

“They could be gone, any second. In fact she’s in a life vest and I have to keep watching everywhere she goes around the lake here,” said Jennifer Freeman, who watches two little kids.

Freeman had her eye on two little ones this day, and constantly, because it’s not a cliche’ to be better safe than sorry.

Hennepin County has 104 lakes, three rivers, countless backyard pools, apartment pools, hotel and motel pools.

There have been three cases of rescuers drowning this year. Major Storms said jumping in is one of the last things they want you to do. In a pool or waterpark, try to reach out to the victim with a rescue pole in any kind of water. Throw anything to them that floats.

He suggests some of the following tips for water safety.

– Parents and caregivers must use ACTIVE supervision when children are near the water. In 70 percent of the cases where toddlers drowned, one or both parents were nearby.

– Teach your children how to swim.

– Always wear a life jacket.

– Keep safety equipment near pools, such as a shepherds’ hook.

– Maintain needed fencing, alarms and barriers around pools.

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