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Early summer, emergency calls bring emphasis to water safety

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 11:07 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As the weather gets warmer, many Kansans are spending more time at lakes throughout the state. A deadly boating accident over the weekend on the Neosho River brings water safety into the forefront as we approach another warm, sunny stretch across Kansas. Safety professionals say there are a few things to keep in mind, especially in the time of year when water temperatures can still be dangerously cold, even with outside temperatures in the mid to upper 80s.

“This is a later frost, which causes the water to be extra cold,” said Amber Waves Diving Company owner Tyler Brewer. “I don’t remember it being this extra cold in the last few years, but it’s because we had that really late, deep cold spout.”

Brewer said hypothermia is one of the many risks swimmers can face this early summer.

“It’s going to warm up pretty soon, but some problems can happen when you add alcohol, colder temperatures to water and a nice, warm day,” Brewer said. “And things can go wrong quick.”

Butler County EMS reports already responding to six water rescue calls this spring and they’re expecting more in the upcoming months. Saturday night, three people were killed and one person injured in a boating accident on the Neosho River near the Burlington City Dam.

“Our goal is to make sure everybody understands places like the El Dorado Lake, ponds, the water is so dark and so murky, it’s hard to see the bottom or any obstructions underneath,” butler County EMs Director Frank Williams said.

But it’s the low-head water dams he said people should avoid altogether. With recirculation in the water, he said anything, or anyone, that goes over the dams also recirculates “and it’s very hard to swim out of those.”

“In fact, they’ve gained the nickname “drowning machine” because of that difficulty of somebody trying to swim out once you’re in it,” he said..

Williams and Brewer said you should never try to help someone who is in a dangerous water situation.

“Too often, we see people want to help and they feel like they’re a strong swimmer and then they get into a situation like this and they end up drowning as well,” Brewer said.

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