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DNR, doctors issue warnings over recent water-related deaths

As of June 14, Hennepin Healthcare says there have been at least 25 drownings in Minnesota. The DNR says boating deaths are up, as well.
Credit: KARE 11
Child airlifted after water emergency in Ham Lake

ST PAUL, Minn. — Warnings are coming from both local doctors and state officials about safety on the water, after a recent wave of deaths.

Hennepin Healthcare sent out a news release Friday in response to what they call a "recent rise" in child drownings during the ongoing heat wave.

According to Julie Philbrook, a trauma prevention specialist at Hennepin Healthcare, there have been at least 25 fatal drownings this year in Minnesota, as of June 14. Five of them were children from ages 4 to 12.

"With the Independence Day holiday coming up and continued warm weather, we want to make sure that everyone is aware of how quickly this can happen – and how easily these tragedies can be entirely prevented," Philbrook said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also sent out a warning on Thursday, saying that as of June 16, there have been as many as nine boating deaths in the state. That's the highest number at this point in the year in more than a decade.

The DNR also referenced the higher-than-normal number of drownings.

“There are too many families who won’t be seeing their loved ones again,” Lt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division, said in a statement. “It’s up to everyone who heads for the water to double-down on safety and prevent what should be a fun experience from turning tragic.”

Hennepin Healthcare and the DNR issued several tips for preventing drownings and boating accidents.

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult "water watcher." This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone or be otherwise distracted. This warning includes pools, spas, bathtubs, buckets, decorative ponds, and fountains.
  • Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults.
  • Learn how to swim and enroll your child in swimming lessons.
  • Do not rely on inflatable water wings to keep your child safe — they can give a false sense of security for both the child and caregiver.
  • Wear a life jacket. All children, and adults should wear a life jacket anytime they’re around the water.
  • Avoid alcohol. Its effects are magnified on the water and the consequences can be deadly. About 40% of boating fatalities include alcohol.
  • Wade feet-first into the water to avoid jumping into an area where the current, depth and other conditions are unknown.
  • Constantly supervise children while they’re in or near the water. Looking away even for a moment is enough time for tragedy to strike. Drowning often doesn’t involve yelling, screaming and waving of the arms. Rather, it often occurs silently.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas.

Hennepin Healthcare also suggests these safety measures for pools:

  • If you own a pool or spa, install layers of protection, including a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers.

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