Spate of drownings prompts swimmer safety concerns

QUINCY, Mass. — Swimmer safety has become a top concern after reports of at least five people in Massachusetts drowning since Friday. As swimmers return to the water throughout the ongoing heatwave, first responders said they’ve already seen an increase in water rescues.

“If you can’t swim or have trouble swimming, don’t swim,” said Michael Palaza, a fire prevention captain with the Quincy Fire Department.

On Sunday, his colleagues responded to Mound Street Beach where a 19-year-old swimmer from Brockton died after trying to retrieve a ball from the water.

“It’s stressful on firefighters. We want to do a good job, we obviously want to make any incident we go to better, a positive outcome. Unfortunately, it’s just not the case at times,” he said.

In Amesbury, a teen drowned after swimming in Lake Gardner Beach on Sunday. In Dedham, Police reported that a 17-year-old was sent to the hospital after a near-drowning incident in a pool during a graduation party.

Palaza did provide swimming safety tips, including:

  • Never swimming alone; always swimming in pairs
  • Be aware of your surroundings in the water, particularly how deep it is
  • Swim near lifeguards

“That causes panic and confusion if all of the sudden that body of water just drops off,” he said, explaining how ledges can cause problems for swimmers. “It’s that uncertainty of being unfamiliar with your surroundings. If you’re not from a specific area and you see a body of water – whether it be a lake, river, or a beach – it’s an uncertain place to be if you’re not familiar with it.”

The guidance comes as the state also faces a lifeguard shortage. The Department of Conservation and Recreation, or DCR, has a posting on their website saying they will offer free lifeguard and CPR certification courses for those who can work this summer at their pools and beaches.

“Every year, Massachusetts residents and visitors travel to DCR beaches, lakes, ponds, and pools seeking relief from the summer heat and time with friends and family outdoors,” said DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery in a statement to Boston 25 News. “DCR lifeguards are absolutely critical to ensuring the public can safely enjoy our popular swimming locations, and make a real difference by dedicating their summer days to safeguarding the public.”

“If you see someone in distress, dial 911 right away. Don’t instinctively run in there and try to save them, as hard as that may be and sound, because you could potentially be another victim,” Palaza said.

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