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'Reach or throw, don't go' | Here's what to do if you see someone drowning

Water safety experts say your first instinct may be to jump in and save the person drowning, but that is actually not what you should do.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Over the Fourth of July weekend, several people drowned in Northern California.

On July 2 three men died when they drowned after getting into the water to save a child near Brannan Island. That same day, near Folsom, someone drowned on the American River. Another man drowned on July 3 at Lake Berryessa.

Water safety experts say that while your first instinct may be to jump in and save the person drowning, this is not what you should do. 

Instead, reach out a hand to them or throw them something that floats. The American Red Cross recommends the phrase "reach or throw, don’t go" to remember how to help someone who may be in trouble.

According to the CDC, more children ages one to four die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects. For children ages one to 14, it’s the second leading cause of death after car accidents.

Megan Henry, the Recreation Coordinator in Roseville, is aware of the sobering statistics.

“The majority of drownings for people 15 and older occur in natural bodies of water so rivers or boating accidents so it’s very important that people wear life jackets, aren’t using drugs or alcohol while enjoying their summer fun,” Henry said.

According to the CDC by averaging out the number of drowning in the United States there are about 11 deaths per day and 22 non-fatal drownings a day.

Will Neville the Recreation Supervisor for Consumnes Community Service District teaches water safety.

“There’s been plenty of stories recently where multiple people have jumped in after someone who is drowning but they are also drowning because they are not strong swimmers, especially depending upon the environment that you are swimming in there could be a number of factors that could lead to someone, even a strong swimmer starting to go into the drowning process whether that’s currents or an obstacle that’s injured someone,” Neville said.

Water safety tips

  • Always have a flotation device. If you don't have one in an emergency situation, seat cushions or a closed empty cooler may be able to float. 
  • Have a designated water watcher that is looking after people swimming. 
  • Bring a life jacket.
  • Keep children or those that struggle to swim just an arm's length away.

Watch more on ABC10

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