Minn. drownings hit 10-year high

  • Article by: MASAKO HIRSCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 5, 2012 - 8:24 PM

So far this year, 25 people have drowned in non-boating accidents, making it the highest number of fatalities since 2003, the DNR says.

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On July 19th on Wirth Lake in Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, a teenager drowned. Divers searched and found his body.

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The number of drownings across the state has nearly hit a 10-year high, according to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report.

So far this year, 25 people have drowned in non-boating incidents, compared with 16 during the same time period in 2011. That's the highest number of non-boating fatalities up to this point in summer since 2003.

There were also eight boating deaths, up from six in 2011.

Kim Elverum, Department of Natural Resources boat and water safety coordinator, said there are several factors that seem to be contributing to the increase in water deaths. One of the biggest reasons is the warm weather, he said, because it encourages more people to hit the beach or pool.

For the most part, however, the accidents were "all over the map." Although the majority of drownings happened in lakes, there were some incidents in which people fell through ice, or drowned in pools, ponds, hot tubs or bathtubs.

A lack of parental supervision for children is one of the foremost reasons for drownings, Elverum said. In addition, many people don't know their own swimming abilities and try to swim farther than they can. They might also swim in an area that's marked off because of a steep dropoff. As with boating accidents, alcohol consumption can also lead to injuries or death for swimmers.

The most recent fatality happened Tuesday in Chisago County. A 5-year-old boy from Rush City drowned in Round Lake and was found in 12 to 14 feet of water. He was told to wear a life jacket, but it was found on the dock.

On Thursday, the body of a Forest Lake boater was found, three days after police were notified of a dog swimming near an unoccupied pontoon boat.

Tod Alan Crawford, 51, was found floating on Forest Lake No. 1 at 11:25 a.m., about a half-mile from where he is believed to have fallen from his boat, police Capt. Greg Weiss said.

Crawford was an avid boater, Weiss said. Crawford is listed as having owned a business, Independent Abstracting Services of Coon Rapids.

Crawford had been reported missing about 3:45 p.m. Monday near the 6800 block of North Shore Trail when a witness saw the dog swimming.

For boating accidents, there were several deaths this spring that were caused by cold water.

About 80 percent of deaths could be prevented with a life jacket, Elverum said, citing national statistics. Unlike traffic fatalities that often involve some sort of collision, the vast majority of these accidents are single-boat incidents, where the boat turns over or capsizes, he said.

Masako Hirsch • 612-673-4263

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