As thousands hit the water during the summer holidays, drownings increase, but there are simple precautions we can all take to avoid becoming a statistic, says ER24 paramedic Natasha Kriel.
Natasha is also a lifeguard with eight years’ experience and, with the help of the NSRI, she established a lifesaving club in her hometown of Melkbosstrand.
She says holidaymakers can’t afford to forget about water safety, especially when visiting swimming spots with no lifeguards.
“A few years ago, while I was patrolling Milnerton beach there was a drowning in progress at the lagoon which is about 800m from where our patrol area was. We ran down and started searching for the person, but we never found them.
“That was quite a sad case for me because they were swimming so far from where we were patrolling — we ended up being too late.
“The designated areas are there for a reason. They are there for safety, not just for the currents but also closer to where the lifeguards are — which in turn ensures that our response times are shorter, quicker and we can get to the person before they submerge.”
One of the biggest dangers, she says, is when children get into trouble and family members who can’t swim jump in to help them. This happens often at beaches and dams and leads to mass casualties.
“We once had a call out of a drowning in progress of about six people in Camps Bay. The season hadn’t started yet (in the Western Cape the season starts on November 1 and closes again after the April school holidays) so there were no lifeguards on duty.
“By the time we arrived, bystanders had managed to pull all the patients from the water. The one patient probably inhaled too much water and she had stopped breathing. She had no pulse and bystander CPR was done on her. We continued to do CPR until we got to the hospital but unfortunately she did not survive.”
Cases like these, says Natasha, show how important it is for everyone to learn basic CPR. And it’s not just at the beach or around a pool where there’s a risk of drowning.
“The public needs to be educated around children and water; baths, buckets of water, any form of water can be dangerous. It is vital that you learn first aid and CPR.
“You never know when you may need to assist someone in need. Educate yourself and ensure your child’s safety,” says Natasha.