Archived Story

Safety warnings issued in light of diving accidents

Published 11:07am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

After two area swimming accidents on the Fourth of July, the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office reminds folks to use common sense, respect others and monitor children while they enjoy water activities this summer.

“In light of the two swimming accidents, diving into shallow water is always dangerous,” Lt. Matt McGuire said. “Because those shallow water diving accidents are life threatening.”

Gene Erickson, 35, of Breckenridge, dove head first off a dock into water that was approximately three feet deep in the east side of Otter Tail Lake July 4. He was alert for a short period of time, then became short of breath. He then stopped breathing and lost his pulse. Bystanders administered CPR, and he was taken by Life Flight to North Memorial.

A 23-year-old man was also injured when he jumped off a dock into shallow water on Lake Lizzie. He was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital.

McGuire recommends knowing how deep the water is before you leap and also to just be careful.

“Be aware of where the bottom is,” McGuire said.

Another problem the sheriff’s office sees is the unsafe use of boats and jet skis near swimming areas. Jet ski complaints are fairly common, McGuire said, whether it be that they’re too close to docks or swimming areas, or that personal watercrafts are used in a reckless or dangerous manner.

“Just pay attention and respect the fact that the waters are public and that people are using them,” McGuire said. “And to be mindful of people around you.”

The amount of people around you on lakes is about 2-1/2 times more on weekends than on weekdays, according to McGuire. It can be even more on holidays.

“We have 1,000 lakes, and on the weekends and holidays, those lakes are substantially more active with people and boats than any other time,” he said.

For added safety when out on the water, wear a life jacket. Children under the age of 10 are required to have a life jacket on if they’re on a boat that’s moving. Boats also need to have accessible life jackets for every person on board.

“The use of life jackets by everyone that’s on the water is recommended,” McGuire said.

It’s also good to know the boating regulations, be aware of boating while intoxicated laws and watch out for scuba divers. Boats are required to stay 150 feet away from the dive flag on the surface.

The sheriff’s office has water patrol on duty during the summer months, so people can call in for safety concerns.

You can find boating safety tips on the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office website.

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