Uptick in Kentucky drownings has officials concerned


ASHLAND, KY (WOWK) — The summer solstice is almost here. Temperatures are rising and more people are going out to lakes and streams to cool off.

However, with this summer fun comes risk, lurking just beneath the surface.

Richard Carr, a captain at the Ashland Fire Department, notes how easy it is to miss the warning signs.

“The misconception is that I’ll hear them or they’ll make noise or they’ll splash and the reality is that you can drown in 20-60 seconds without ever making a noise,” Carr said.

There have been 12 drownings across Kentucky since Memorial Day, a fact concerning officials.

“It has been a high number in a short period of time and I think that due to COVID-19 people were cooped up, they weren’t able to get out. The weather’s turned pretty, restrictions have been lifted, and so the lakes have been packed,” Boyd County Emergency Management Director Tim England said.

England also says it’s all about being cautious.

“Probably number one for the lakes and the rivers is, stay sober. Sober swimming and sober boating.  A high number of our injuries and fatalities are due to alcohol-related or drug-related deaths,”  England said.

He also says people should be aware of their own limitations.

“Being in the waters can be very exhausting. So, know your physical limitations, and if you can’t swim you should definitely not be in the water, but if you are you’ve gotta have on a flotation device,” England said.

Some fire departments, like in Ashland, have dive teams to conduct water rescues and searches.

Carr is a member of it.

“The dive team goes out, the unfortunate reality is that generally its for body recovery, and we don’t like doing that.  And truthfully the biggest way to stop this from happening is prevention,”  Carr said.

Dive teams such as these have a lot of heavy equipment that they use during search and recovery operations. They say that families and even people from the area may not know certain crucial facts, like how cold the water can actually get.

“Your outside temperature versus water temperature is a huge difference.  So, 50 degrees outside is cold, but its tolerable, you can put a jacket on, you can deal with it.  50 degrees in water can kill you quick,” Carr said.

So even in the summer, it is important to stay aware of your surroundings in the water, stay sober, and make sure you have the right gear.

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