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First responders emphasize water safety during Memorial Day weekend

As the unofficial kick off to summer starts, officials want to remind people to stay safe of the wat
As the unofficial kick off to summer starts, officials want to remind people to stay safe of the wat 02:19

MINNETONKA, Minn. — For many Minnesotans, Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of boating season.

At Lake Minnetonka, first responders are preparing for crowds of thousands to hit the water.

This week, however, the U.S. Coast Guard is emphasizing the importance of water safety, sharing data showing the prevalence of accidents and injuries while boating.

In 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard says 636 people died nationally in boating accidents – and another 2,222 people were injured. Moreover, boating accidents caused $63 million in property damage.

"It's a lot of people's first time out on a lake — they might not know how to ride a boat as well — driving, could be a little more careless, not aware of the dangers as much," said Brent Anderson, a paramedic with Hennepin Healthcare who spent Saturday riding along with Hennepin County Sheriff's Water Crews on Lake Minnetonka.

Anderson says boaters early in the season are still at risk for hypothermia – even if outdoor temperatures are hot.

"If you get hypothermia, you're not thinking clearly. You could think you're warm. You're just not functioning properly. You've got to be careful with it," Anderson said. 


New research from the Centers for Disease Control also reveals a startling rise in the number of drownings across America since the pandemic. Between 2020 and 2022, 4,500 people drowned each year in the U.S., which is roughly 500 more drowning deaths each year compared to 2019. 

It's also the leading cause of death among children ages 1-4 and drowning increased by 28% in that age group in 2022 compared to 2019.

"CDC's drowning prevention experts collected high-quality drowning data to better understand how we can protect people in communities across the United States," said Debra Houry, the CDC's Chief Medical Officer. "Understanding the barriers people face to accessing basic swimming and water safety skills training can help us better understand how to address those barriers, decrease drowning rates, and save lives."

More than a third of Black adults reported not knowing how to swim compared to 15% of all adults, and 72% of Hispanic adults reported never taking a swimming lesson, according to CDC data.

In Minneapolis, the Park Board is offering swim lessons for kids ages 3-17 at five different locations starting June 17. There are scholarships available to help improve access and affordability.

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