Staying safe in the water amid spike in water-related deaths


The recent spate of water-related deaths is putting a sharp focus on staying safe when you spend time on the water.

The thing that gets most folks into trouble is swimming in areas where it’s not designated.

Unlike a pool, a lake or a river can have hidden obstructions or underwater currents that cause problems.

The Stinnett family of Durham came to Falls Lake loaded with lots of lake day toys, but they also came with a cautionary eye thanks to mom.

“We’ve heard about some incidents happening in the lake recently,” said Lisa Stinnett. “And in the past years and we talk about it every time we come here.”

Since June, drownings have occurred at Hyco Lake, involving both a swimmer and a fisherman in separate incidents. There were two drownings in different sections of the Cape Fear River and a drowning this week at Falls Lake.

In the Falls Lake incident, the victim was outside of a designated swimming area which rangers say can lead to trouble.

“This is a manmade reservoir and they can be at shoreline depth that’s comfortable and suddenly there’s a drop off at the lake,” said Ranger Kristen Woodruff, who is the Park Superintendent at Falls Lake.

That’s why Lisa Stinnett keeps a sharp eye on her kids.

“I’m pretty fanatic about them staying in the designated area. I don’t like it even when they get close to the yellow part,” she said.

Not only does the designated swimming area ensure a uniform 5 1/2 foot depth without obstructions, but it’s located away from other hidden dangers.

“There’s also areas that have underwater current as well,” said Woodruff. “People who swim in those areas face threats they would not face in designated areas.”

Personal flotation devices are required for anyone on a boat, and at places like Falls Lake, they are provided for free. This is especially helpful for folks like Paul Nagi and his friend, who aren’t good swimmers.

“It’s pretty important to wear this because we want to be safe,” said Nagi. “Sometimes you hear about people drowning and we just want to be safe.”

Remember, all lake swimming is at your own risk.

For parents, the biggest struggle is between keeping your kids safe while making sure they have healthy respect for the water-but not so much that they become fearful.

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