June 20, 2008
Drownings Raise Safety Concerns
Three young men have drowned at Thurmond Lake since mid-May, and Columbia County's emergency services director said deceptive water levels and cold temperatures in deeper water likely contributed to the deaths.
"The cold water causes the body to cramp," which, in turn, causes swimmers to panic, Pam Tucker said.
She said the lake has shallow areas and sudden drops.
"The levels are so low, and people are just completely deceived by that," said Mrs. Tucker.
Edtwon Jackson, 22, of Thomson, drowned in the Lake Springs swimming area Saturday.
Olvin Interiano, 27, of Beech Island, drowned May 26, and Serrmaster Dozier, 20, of Augusta, drowned May 17. Both of those deaths occurred at the West Dam swimming area.
All three of the men were in just a couple of feet of water before they suddenly found themselves in water 20 to 30 feet deep, said Mrs. Tucker.
She said there were 19 deaths at Thurmond Lake in 1993 and 17 in 1998.
"In this decade, we have averaged five or six a year," said Ms. Tucker.
However, she said county officials anticipate that more area residents will visit the lake this summer rather than take a trip out of town because of high gas prices.
She advised swimmers at the lake to wear life preservers and never to venture into the water alone.
All of the men who have drowned in the past month were at the lake with other people, said Ms. Tucker, "but they were alone in these particular situations."
She said most drownings involve men between the ages of 18 and 44.
Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or [email protected]
WATER SAFETY TIPS
- Always swim with a buddy.
- Children should take precautions such as wearing a life preserver.
- Be knowledgeable of potential hazards, such as deep areas and currents.
WATER DEATHS DOWN IN GEORGIA
ATLANTA --- Georgia's ongoing drought might be keeping state water deaths low, officials said Monday.
On open water, such as lakes, ponds and rivers, so far this year 23 people have drowned, while 28 drowned in the same period last year, according to state figures.
The rate of drowning in Georgia has declined as the drought has progressed. The rate in 2001 was 1.4 deaths for 100,000 Georgians compared to just 1.1 in 100,000 in 2006, according to the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
Melissa Cummings, with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said lower water levels can fool people about steep drop- offs.
-- Morris News Service
Originally published by Betsy Gilliland Columbia County Bureau.
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