ODNR urges caution on water after 4 people die in apparent drownings

Four apparent drownings in Southwest Ohio in recent days underscore the importance of water safety, as those types of fatalities are among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S.

The bodies of a Dayton man, a Springboro woman, a 5-year-old and a Springfield man were all pulled over three days from separate waterways after being found unresponsive.

All of the instances occurred in waterways or at state parks. Those are options which people may use as water recreation alternatives with the coronavirus pandemic keeping many pools closed this summer to swimming, which the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says is the fourth most popular recreational activity in the country.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources urged caution for those who use those options.

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“Outdoor recreation is different this year, with closures and new recreational protocols due to COVID-19,” the ODNR said in a statement released Wednesday. “Ohio’s outdoor spaces, including state parks, are experiencing higher than normal visitation as families look for ways to get outdoors to explore.

“If you’re trying something outside for the first time, it’s important to do your research. For example, swimming in a natural body of water, such as a lake, is different than swimming in a pool—it can be murky, and difficult to see where the water deepens,” the ODNR said.

Jalynn Henderson, 18, of Dayton was pronounced dead at the scene Sunday at the Glen Helen nature preserve, the first apparent drowning victim.

The body of kayaker Kathleen M. Lewis, 55, of Springboro was found Monday afternoon in Twin Creek in Franklin Twp. in Warren County, more than 24 hours after she was reported missing.

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Tuesday evening, the body of missing young Cameron Walters was recovered at the Mineral Springs Lake Resort, where the 5-year-old had been reported missing the day before, according to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

And Wednesday, authorities were investigating the possible drowning of Nathaniel Cain, 18, of Springfield at Buck Creek State Park in Clark County, where his body was recovered late Tuesday night.

Authorities said Lewis drowned. Causes or manners of death had not been released for Henderson or Cain late Wednesday afternoon.

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Records show nine drownings were recorded in 2019 by the ODNR, which manages Buck Creek. There were 14 fatalities in 13 boating wrecks with two of the deaths in Southwest Ohio, according to the ODNR.

Ohio ranked second nationally in the number of accidental deaths in 2017, according to the CDC. Drowning is fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in this country, the CDC found.

From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings annually in the U.S. — about 10 deaths per day, according to the CDC. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents, the center said.

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The ODNR recommends those using Ohio waterways – whether boating or swimming – take a variety of precautions when venturing out. Boaters should wear a life jacket, check their equipment, beware of their surroundings, travel at safe speeds and not to on the water under the influence of alcohol, among others, according to the ODNR.

A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities, according to the department.

Swimmers should keep an eye on young children, go only in designated areas in the water, bring a cell phone, avoid alcoholic beverages and - if you aren’t a strong swimmer - wear a life jacket, among other steps, according to the ODNR.

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-When boating:

•Wear a life jacket.

•Make sure you have and know how to use all the essential equipment.

•Let family and friends know where you’re going and when you will return.

•Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing.

•Know what’s going on around you at all times.

-If swimming:

•Stay alert and keep a sharp eye on young children.

•Swim only in designated areas at the beach and lake.

•If you aren’t a strong swimmer, wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

•Lakes are not pools. The water is murky, and it may not be visible where it becomes deeper so exercise caution.

•Bring a cellphone to make an emergency call if necessary.

•Alcohol and swimming do not mix.


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