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Recent deaths reflect the hazards of summer fun in the water

MORRIS – Recent tragedies serve as a warning on just how hazardous summer fun can be when it involves swimming pools, lakes or rivers.

According to the American Red Cross, 80 percent of people plan to go to the beach, pool, water park, go on a boat or fish this summer.

A few of those excursions locally have already turned tragic.

The most recent incident happened Sunday when Emily A. Hendricks, 24, of Wheaton, drowned after a boating accident on the Illinois River at the Dresden Dam near Coal City. Three other people were rescued.

It was the fourth local drowning incident this month.

Also Sunday, a Naperville man, 35-year-old Alberto Rodriguez Jr., entered the Illinois River in Marseilles from an anchored boat to cool off and was swept downriver by the swift current. His body was found Tuesday in the Illinois River, just west of Allen Park in Ottawa.

On June 15, Liam Vaughn, 3, of Rockford, drowned in a backyard pool in Morris during a party when he was with several adults and other children after he took off his water floats to eat. He jumped back into the pool without the floats on, and within moments his father saw his son face down in the pool. The Grundy County Coroner’s office reported Liam’s parents performed CPR immediately, but the boy did not survive.

On June 3, Dean Fredericks, 20, of Morris, was canoeing with three friends on the Kankakee River when their boat overturned near the Des Plaines Conservation Area in Wilmington. His friends were able to reach different shores on their own, but rescue divers found Fredericks’ body later that night.

State law requires boats carry one life jacket for every person on board and children under 13 must wear them at all times.

“We want everyone to be safe. It is something we check and most people follow the rules,” Will County Forest Preserve Police Lt. Tracy Phillips said. While swimming isn’t allowed, several preserves allow boats up to 18 feet long.

“Most of the time they’re occupied by one or two adult fisherman, who aren’t wearing life jackets, but do have them,” Phillips said.

A recent national survey shows people believe they are better swimmers than they actually are. While four out of five people say they are able to swim, only 56 percent of “swimmers” can perform all five basic skills that can save their lives, according to a news release from the American Red Cross.

The ability to step or jump in water above your head, come back up and tread water for a minute, turn around in a circle, swim 25 yards and get out of the water without a ladder is considered essential for “water competency,” according to the Red Cross.

The survey said 40 percent of parents reported their children have the five basic swimming skills, but 92 percent said their child will likely participate in water activities this summer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an average of 10 people die from drowning every day. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency treatment for submersion injuries.

Channahon Fire Chief John Petrakis said the increase in water activity during summer weather should lead to increased vigilance.

“I certainly encourage anyone with a pool or home near a body of water to always be aware when anyone is nearby,” Petrakis said. “I think we’re a little more comfortable in our homes, but we turn our backs for 60 seconds and it turns into an emergency incident.”

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