Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Michigan's Lakes are Still Cold and Lake Safety Matters

While the ice is off the lakes, that doesn't mean its safe to be casually jumping in the water, nor nonchalantly boating either:

Commerce Township man drowns after saving father in canoe accident

A 24-year-old Commerce Township man who helped save his 60-year-old father after their canoe tipped over in an Oakland County lake on Saturday drowned after the father got to shore.

Oakland County Sheriff's officials aren't releasing the man's name but said he was taking a canoe ride with his father around 5:15 p.m. in Hawk Lake in a newly purchased 17-foot aluminum canoe when he stood up in it about 100 feet from the shore and the boat flipped.

Sgt. Brian Lippard said the man helped his father hold onto the partially submerged side of the canoe until a neighbor on the lake heard their cries for help and helped get the father to shore. When the neighbor returned to help the 24-year-old, he had slipped below the surface of the 50-degree water. Divers recovered his body about 45 minutes later, Lippard said.

Neither man was wearing a life jacket and alcohol may have been a factor, along with the son's swimming ability, the sherriff's office said.

The weekend was nice and sunny and great for boating, and its likley many boaters didn't consider that the water is still darn cold. If you weren't wearing warm clothing and a life jacket you were in deep trouble if you fell in, as happended in this case.

Boating safety matters and life jackets are essentially safety gear, especially in small boats. Considering the temperature of the water, falling in the water can be a massive shock to your system, and hypothermia is a real possibility.

In 50 degree water, in under 5 minutes without protective clothing you will lose manual dexterity, including your ability to hold on to things. You'll be totally exhausted in thirty to sixty minutes and dead from hypothermia in one to three hours.

This was a sad but very avoidable tragedy, all the worse considering the safety was a short 100 feet away -- but after the system shock your body gets when hitting such cold water, and if the report is right about a lack of swimming ability and possible alcohol use, 100 feet may have been miles for all the help it could be. Darn shame, and even worse that if this was a new boat they mayn ot have known any better about the local conditions, and the basic fact that you don't go standing up in a 17 foot canoe unless you want to go swimming.

Especially now that the Oakland County Sheriff is suspending its marine patrols due to budget constraints, there's going to be both less help available for distressed boaters and less of a lid kept on the yahoos that contribute to unsafe boating, likey leading to more incidents this year.

Be safe out there on the lakes.

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