By editorial board • 

Spate of drownings reminds Oregonians about water risks

Tragically, as Oregonians learned this week, it’s a year-round necessity to warn people about the dangers of water, whether it’s in the ocean, a fast-flowing river or a seemingly benign lake.

In May in Linn County, 21-year-old University of Oregon tennis player Alex Rovello jumped from a 60-foot cliff at Tamolitch Falls into Blue Pool. He didn’t survive the plunge into the 37-degree water.

Two weeks ago, 15-year-old Cesar Campuzano of Newberg, a nonswimmer, died of complications after jumping into the Willamette River at Rogers Landing.

Monday, 61-year-old Jack Davies of Sherwood went under the surface of the Clackamas River while swimming toward his dog. He still had a pulse when transported to the hospital, but he later died.

John Deranleau, 60, jumped into the Columbia River on Tuesday to retrieve a fishing pole that slipped from his hands. The water was too cold, and he immediately was in trouble. He was face-down in the water and unconscious by the time his friend maneuvered the boat to reach him. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

That same day, outside Coos Bay, 8-year-old Kristian Croy disappeared underwater while swimming in a lake with his family. His body was found four hours later.

Summer fun — or any season, for that matter — can turn to tragedy in an instant when people don’t heed the risks of water and the limitations of their own bodies. Flotation devices would have saved most of those who die in such accidents.

There are approximately 3,500 unintentional drownings each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with another 350 people dying from drowning in boating incidents. About 20 percent of those victims are age 14 and younger, and many others receive emergency treatment for nonfatal submersion injuries that can result in brain damage and other long-term disabilities.

Drowning causes more deaths of children age 1 to 4 than any other cause except birth defects, accounting for more than 30 percent of deaths from unintentional injuries in that age group. For ages 1 to 14, drowning is the second-leading cause of injury deaths, behind motor vehicle crashes.

Oregon has a low drowning rate for small children in great measure because few Oregonians have home swimming pools, where most drownings occur for toddlers. But we have plenty of lakes, cold rivers and an always dangerous Pacific Ocean, where youths and adults regularly forget that it takes just a momentary lapse of judgment to turn recreation into heartbreak.

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