Drownings almost as common as traffic fatalities

In the very few warm days of the year almost as many people die drowning as do in traffic accidents. Last year 194 people drowned in Latvia, while 212 people died on the roads, reported Latvian Television on Friday.

People can drown in a matter of seconds, and not only their clothes are what's left behind them on the coast. Their family may be there too.

This scenario unfolded on Wednesday in Jūrmala where a man drowned in front of his little daughter and wife. It happened 500 meters from the Jaunķemeri life-saving station. The man was trying to reach the swimming float that the wind had blown into the sea.

His body was found after an hour and a half.

Rescuers say that most of the time people overestimate their abilities. "When there's a coastal wind, everything is blown into the sea, and it's dangerous to go behind the [safety] buoys - both for us and the swimmer [..]," said rescuer Kaspars Kalsons.

The other reason people drown so often is that there's a great difference between the air and water temperature. After sunbathing, holiday-makers propel themselves into the freezing water, and that's too much of a strain on the body.

Roberts Fūrmanis, president of the Latvian Life-saving association, has been a rescuer for many years and doesn't understand that campaigns for safe driving awareness are carried out regularly, but there are none for safe swimming.

"It's rare to see swimming taught in schools, but I think it should be made compulsory from grades 1 to 4, as children learn that water is dangerous then," said Fūrmanis.

Rescuers also said that they wouldn't let children use swim rings as children feel too safe but if they slip out of one they can't get back anymore. 

Seeking lost toddlers is the second most often job that rescuers have to do, and children sometimes wander for kilometers until they're found. 

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