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Old 25.05.2011, 10:41
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Re: NOTE: When drowning doesn't look like drowning

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You can end up in a fight with someone going under, if they're conscious. They can be panicking so much they lunge at you and if they're bigger / stronger / heavier they can pull you down too. It may seem brutal, but a sharp smack in the face before hooking yourself around them helps keep you in charge. Then command them to help you kick kick kick, if they're capable.

Doing this while the world carries on splashing about and having fun can seem very surreal; nobody will notice, even under their noses. Expect to be exhausted and furious when nobody else comes to assist!
If you are not trained (and even if you are) direct contact with a drowning person should always be a last resort. As others have mentioned someone who is drowning is not thinking straight, if they see something floating they will grab it and not let go. If that floating thing is you then they will take you down with them. For someone experienced having to rescue two people is a lot more difficult than rescuing one! The first rule is do not put your own life in danger.

If you notice someone drowning...DON'T just react.
  • Take time to check the situation, are you putting yourself or others in danger by going in? (In many cases you may just be able to get a rope or a long stick and fish them out without getting in the water yourself)
  • Before you enter the water make sure there are no other hazards. DON'T dive in. It may not be deep enough!
  • Before entering the water look for something that floats or at the very minimum look for a rope or something similar (shirt, t-shirt other clothing!) that you can pass to the drowning victim to keep them afloat and/or tow them back.
  • When approaching the victim DO NOT get within arms reach. Instead thread water far enough away that they can't reach you and pass them whatever bit of equipment you have brought with you.
  • Tow them back without making contact unless they lose consciousness or are two weak to hold any safety equipment you provide them with.

Always send a drowning victim to hospital. Even if they seem ok they can suffer from secondary drowning hours later. They need to be under observation for 24 hours.

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Thanks for bringing this to everyones attention.

A couple of years ago, I was living close to the beach and decided whilst my OH was having a beer on the deck above the beach, to go for swim to and watch the sunset from the water. By this time, the lifeguards were packing up, but I thought I wouldn't be long and I could just swim back. However, the tide started going out, as soon as I had swum out and it so a really strong current, that everytime I tried to get out, I was sucked underneath the water, and pushed down underneath. Everytime I tried to catch my breath, the same thing happened... I saw the lifeguards, and tried to wave for some help, but they just didn't see me. I knew the best thing to do was to let the water take me out and try to swim back when it was calmer, but I was so tired (I was pregnant at the time) and scared that I just wanted to be out the water. I really thought I was going to die, and my baby too. After what seemed like forever, I saw my OH and another man run towards me. My OH tried to pull me out, but he couldn't because the water sucked him too. Luckily this other man, a lot taller and bigger build had the strength to run into the water and pulled me out.

I just wanted to warn people that water has the power over you, as much as you think you are a confident swimmer, just take caution and always tell people where you are going. If I hadn't have told my partner that I was popping for a swim, which I haven't always done... I probably wouldn't have been saved.
Sounds like you were caught in a Rip Current. A rip is where waves keep pushing water up the beach more than the current tidal level. All this water has to get back out to sea somehow. Usually it will follow a channel where a river enters the water or along a cliff or headland. In these situation there will be a current running parallel to the beach towards where the channel is so if you are in this current you will first get pulled along the beach and then out.

The rip will disperse once out past the breaking waves. Do not try to fight the rip, instead swim across it until you feel you are not being pulled out anymore. The waves will actually start to wash you towards the beach at this point. Keep swimming perpendicular to the rip (usually parallel to the beach) for a while once you are out of the rip. If you don't do this once you get close to the beach the current will pull you back along the beach and into the rip as you try to get back to shore. It often takes more than one round even for experienced people to get in under these circumstances. The number one rule is Don't panic. It's panic that drowns people in most cases. Stay came and swim across the current. You will get out eventually.

Before entering the water look for flat spots in the waves, or a stream of different couloured or textured water which seems to be flowing out near streams,cliffs or headlands. These are usually where the rips are and are best well avoided unless you know what you are doing.

If there is no channel, river, cliff for the water to follow you can get a flash rip where there is so much water that has been pushed up the beach it at some point just forces it's way out very fast at a random point on the beach. The rules are the same to get out of this, but they are harder to identify.

Just because you see someone entering the water in an area that may appear dangerous don't assume they are going to drown. Experienced surfers and other water users may use rips and other features as an easy way to get out past the white water.
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