Deadly accidents prompt warnings for swimmers in creeks and rive - KOAM TV 7

Deadly accidents prompt warnings for swimmers in creeks and rivers

Joplin, MO -

Emergency workers issue a high alert to river and creek swimmers, after three drownings the past few days.  Emergency officials say the extreme heat is causing more people to cool off in their local waterways.  But officials are asking people to not let the heat cloud judgment.

The Lime Kilm Dam near Neosho may look safe.

"It's quite relaxing.  They'll sit here and listen to the water," says Greg Hickman with the Newton County Emergency Management Office.

But Hickman knows better.

"There's no warning signs out here," says Hickman.

There are no direct warning signs, but Hickman says there are signs, nonetheless.  Hickman points out a large log that's been caught in an undercurrent for about a week now.  Officials say these undercurrents are what trapped 27-year-old Juan Santellano Friday, then trapped 35-year-old Danni Lopez who tried to save his friend.

Both drowned.

Hickman says as difficult as it may be in a situation like this, people should not put themselves in danger trying to save others.

"The best thing to do is call 911, or call for assistance, call for help," says Hickman.

Hickman also says cloudy or murky water could be a sign of strong undercurrents, so don't even try testing the strength of those currents.

"The water level that we're seeing right now is about what we usually would see," says Chief Steve Coats with the Redings Mill Fire Protection Agency.

But Coats says his department has responded to six water-related rescues on Shoal Creek since June, a high number for the department.

"Don't want to give the message out that you shouldn't go swimming, or you shouldn't have fun with your families.  But it's important that people know their surroundings," says Coats.

Knowing your surroundings saves important seconds while using a cell phone to let officials know the location of an emergency.  But even before you get in the water, take the time to closely look at water conditions.

Saturday, five-year-old Anthony Martinez, who was wearing a life vest and boating in a kayak with his mom, drowned after the kayak he was in overturned, then lodged in a sandbar by strong currents.

Officials say this case is a strong, sad reminder that the forces of nature can take over, regardless of safety precautions.

"Kind of like a car wreck.  No matter what safety device, or what level of swimming capabilities this child had, it was probably something that was going to occur and not be preventable," says Coats.

The past few days have taken a toll on rescue divers.  Many of them we talked to by phone said they were exhausted not only because of the emergency calls, but also extreme heat.


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