2018 had highest number of drowning deaths in the Great Lakes

Published: Jan. 7, 2019 at 5:28 PM EST
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The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. is reporting 2018 as the deadliest year for drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010 and they say almost all drownings are preventable.

The project reports 117 lives were lost on the Great Lakes because of drowning and they say, that number should be zero.

"We believe that every drowning is preventable and we've got to start asking ourselves as a society, 'Why are we not preventing them?'" prompted Dave Benjamin, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Surf Project.

The organization says it may not be as easy to identify a drowning victim as you may think.

"Drowning is swift, it doesn't look the way Hollywood portrays it," said Benjamin. "When you're panicking, it's an emotional and an irrational response to the situation. We start making a lot of mistakes and that's why we start to hyperventilate."

A person who is drowning will usually be facing shore, their mouth will be at water level and may have their head tipped back. They'll be vertical, so it may almost look like they're treading water.

"You have to, instead of fight to survive, you have to roll over and get your breathing under control," said Benjamin.

If you find yourself in a panicked drowning situation, flip yourself on to your back, float to get yourself and your breathing under control, and then follow a safe path out of the water.

As the drowning deaths increased on the Great Lakes, the city of Marquette reports zero drowning deaths in 2018.

"We've worked very closely with Northern Michigan University in order to make sure the information gets out to people, especially those new to the area, about the dangers of the lake, the dangers of certain areas within the city limits where people swim," said Marquette City Manager Mike Angeli.

The city employs 30 lifeguards in the summertime, and the Police Department has a designated park patrol to help keep an eye on the water.

"We've made a pretty good effort to try and deal with it," Angeli added.

There's more information on Great Lakes drowning statistics and how to keep yourself on the water,