Most adults who drown in open water “knew how to swim and exceeded or overestimated their swimming abilities,” said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which recently reported an upsurge of deaths at lake and river projects managed by the agency.
“Most people learn to swim in a pool where they can easily reach the sides or push off the bottom when they need to take a break,” the agency noted.
“There are no sides to grab onto in open water and the bottom can be several feet below you,” said the statement, which noted swimmers can encounter an unexpected drop-off “just a few feet away” from a shoreline.
It also said exhausted swimmers may black out due to improper breathing.
“Shallow-water blackout often happens to people who know how to swim well because they deny their body’s desire to inhale for too long,” the agency said. “Once someone loses consciousness water enters the lungs, causing them to drown.”
In addition, it said, some people “don’t think about survival floating when they panic.”
The Corps said more than 30 people had drowned at sites under its management in June, an increase of almost 50 percent from a year earlier. It said “nearly all” the drowning victims were men “and were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the drowning.”
The increase in drownings was likely due to the closings of community pools and some beaches due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Corps.
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