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Unfortunate Tragedy and the importance of Swim Safety

With summer comes warm sunny days and for most people that means a day at the beach, pool, or possibly a water park. This past weekend our family witnessed something incredibly tragic while picnicking at Brenton Point State Park in Newport, RI. It had been a perfect day for enjoying the ocean breeze along the shore line for many locals and tourists. The drive there was something we had been looking forward to, as Newport was trending 10-15 degrees cooler than our little town and we were ready for a break from the heat.

Driving along the coast we noticed something we don't often see... Double red flags posted at the Beach. For those who are unfamiliar to what that means, a double red flag indicates that the water is closed to the public. This is for both swimming and recreational small craft like kayaks and paddle boards. Essentially, don't get into the water.

There had been several warnings in the weather report and local news about rip tides and severe undercurrents. The Double red flag was not a big surprise to us, but looking back after we arrived home later that evening, it is not surprising that many either are unaware or would ignore this.

While it might look like fun, Cliff jumping is illegal in Newport. Those who attempt to are taking a huge unnecessary risk. The cliffs are not safe on a calm day, forget a high wind and surf day and while I know people do it, is it really worth the risk? The coast line is lined with rocky outcroppings and coves. These dips and groves create extremely dangerous swimming conditions. Signs are posted everywhere that swimming is not permitted, that the rocks are slippery and a person can easily get swept away with a good strong wave. Once down in the churning water it is difficult for even a trained professional to escape. It might seem silly, but life jackets really should be worn if fishing along these areas...especially in rough weather conditions.

The emergency response personnel on site this past weekend worked diligently. We watched as divers struggled in the water, eventually timing out and replaced by a second team. Prolonged exposure to the cold water can cause hypothermia even on the hottest of days. It is very important to know how to recognize the signs in your swimming companions. Hypothermia can lead to shock quickly and will require medical attention. Between exhaustion from fighting the waves and exposure to frigid water temperature it was incredibly important for the dive teams to rotate for their own safety. No one wants a second victim.

Please, as you enjoy your water activities this summer, take the time to learn local rules and safety guidelines. The beach is so much fun! Unfortunately, it can also be incredibly dangerous. A little precaution will ultimately save you and your loved ones from a tragic and preventable accident. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this tragedy.



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