COKATO, Minn. (WCCO) – Despite the relief from the heat on Saturday, many people have been hitting the water to cool off from this recent heat wave.
So far, 25 people have drowned in non-boating accidents. Last year at this time, there were only 16.
There have been six boating-related accidents this year.
National statistics show 4 out of 5 of the deaths could have been prevented if people wore their life jackets.
The increase of drownings has one dad in Minneapolis saying enough is enough, especially because he recently almost drowned himself.
Kevin Schreifels was thrown from a ski boat last week in Cokato Lake. He wasn’t wearing a life jacket and was on the boat by himself.
When asked about the last time Kevin saw his boat while in the water, his memory was short and precise.
“Going circles in the lake…my last breath of air under water,” he said.
The ski boat is his in-laws.
“Driving around, then decided to make a quick turn, and literally went up like that, and landed on my neck and back in the water,” said Kevin. “I think I was going about 30…that’s pretty fast,” he said.
Kevin has his own boat, and takes his wife and girls out all the time. This boat turns much quicker. While in the water, he tried catching the boat that was circling.
I tried to grab on, thinking I would grab this and get back in the boat…It was going so fast,” he said.
Now exhausted, Kevin remembers seeing the couple that pulled him to safety.
“I was watching literally from underwater and that’s still what’s in my head is, you know, how? How did I sit underneath the water, clear as the day, and watching them?” he asked.
Instead of swimming after the boat, he realizes he should’ve swam straight to shore. And the boat he was driving didn’t have an emergency chord that attaches to the driver, so that if thrown overboard, the engine shuts off.
“If you have a kill switch in your boat, use it,” said Kevin. “I’ve never used my kill switch before and I’m using it from here on out because you never know. You never know”
Kevin says he was in the water for 20 to 30 minutes before he was rescued. He lasted so long because he’s a triathlete, and is in pretty good shape.
Kevin has been back on the water after the accident. However, he’s much more careful in the boat. He even bought new life jackets for his family.