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Swimming Experts Urge Learning Life-Saving Skills To Prevent Drowning

By WCCO-TV Reporter Pafoua Yang

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - This week alone, at least three people have died from drownings. The fatal incidents took place near Lakeville, Hastings and Hawick.

Swimming experts are warning those heading out to the water to learn self-rescue skills.

Nine-year-old Quinn Plain has been swimming for as long as she can remember. Quinn's family believes strongly that swimming is an important life skill.

This summer, the family went out to the pool where their 5-year-old, Griffin Plain, jumped off the diving board and struggled to resurface.

"It literally happened in instant of a second while I was putting sunscreen on my arm," said Jill Plain, the mother of Quinn and Griffin.

Quinn noticed her little brother bobbing up and down the pool.

"I was scared but I was also like I know what to do," said Quinn. "It was kind of like an instinct."

The 9-year-old swam to her brother and was able to bring him to the pool latter, where he recovered. Quinn credits Foss Swimming School for the lifesaving skills she used.

"It's been pretty consistent for a number of years that drowning is the leading cause of deaths for kids under the age of five," said John Foss, chairman and founder of Foss Swimming School.

Those that do survive from drownings can sometimes deal with lifelong physical damages such as brain damage.

"When you fall into the water, the first thing you should not do is look up and release all the air. Then you won't be buoyant and you'll sink to the bottom," said Foss.

Foss explained that people often make the mistake of looking up when they fall into water. When that happens, the hydrostatic pressure of the water pushes everything out and now the lungs become empty. Even if someone gets to the surface, there's no air for them to yell. Foss said this is why drowning is considered a silent event.

The good news is most people can float if they're stretched on their backs in the water. Foss said humans are designed to swim due to the body fat layer combined with the lung volume.

Some swimmers may be skilled in the pool, but it doesn't necessarily mean they'll be strong swimmers in open water. Swimming pools are typically confined and usually there's more people or lifeguards nearby. In open water, swimmers could go against the current and temperatures may be colder.

Quinn has swam in open water before and said she's noticed a difference.

"You don't want to go too far in a lake that's not technically in a swimming zone because there can be a drop, that's not very safe," said Quinn.

"Learning the skills to be safe and have fun at the same time are something that kids can learn for their whole lives and walk away knowing what to do in situations where they might otherwise panic," Jill said.

As of June 14, Hennepin Healthcare reported 25 fatal drownings in Minnesota. Five were children ranging from ages 4-12.

The CDC estimates there are 3,960 unintentional fatal drownings every year. That's an average of 11 drownings per day.

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