If God had meant for humans to be in the water, he’d have given them gills.
Plainly, that is overstating the case.
Nonetheless, the thought illustrates what ought to be obvious — people are land creatures, and venturing into bodies of water is something that should be undertaken only with the greatest respect for a foreign environment.
Yet, the obvious seems to elude far too many folks.
In the last two months, there have been at least five water rescues performed in Lawrence County.
June 12: Four people are rescued from the Connoquenessing Creek (near where a 17-year-old male drowned over the 2018 Memorial Day weekend). The four were kayaking in the creek when they ended up in the water and needed help.
June 16: First responders are called out for a water rescue for three women who were on an air mattress in Neshannock Creek on state Route 956 in Wilmington Township.
July 16: Rescue teams were called to the Shenango River in Pulaski Township when five people were reported missing. The five eventually found their way to the river bank on their own, but not before teams from three fire departments were dispatched to the scene.
July 30: A group of teen-aged kayakers is rescued from the Connoquenessing.
Aug. 4: New Castle firefighters pluck a man from the Shenango River. The man had been fishing in about four feet of water and believed a strong current would sweep him away if he tried to exit the river on his own.
None of the rescued parties accidentally went into these rivers. They all entered intentionally because they thought doing so would be fun.
There’s a lesson here that we hope each one has learned, and that others will consider before taking a similar plunge. Never underestimate the power of the river, or overestimate your ability to swim.
For those who want to cool off with a swim, the American Red Cross lays out three fundamental principles:
•Be sure you are water competent for natural environments before swimming — this is not your home pool.
•Always enter unknown or shallow water feet first.
•Watch out for currents, waves and underwater obstructions — they’re not just found in the ocean.
Anyone paddling a canoe or kayak gets these tips from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission:
•Wear your life jacket. Some 80 percent of all recreational boating fatalities happen to people who are not wearing a life jacket.
•Expect to get wet and dress properly. Even the best paddlers sometimes capsize or swamp their boats.
•Be prepared to swim. If the water looks too hazardous to swim in, don’t go paddling.
•If you capsize, hold on to your boat, unless it presents a life-threatening situation.
•Scout ahead whenever possible. Know the river. Avoid surprises.
•Never boat alone. Boating safety increases with numbers.
•File a float plan (a PDF of which is available on the commission’s web site) with a reliable person, indicating where you are going and when you will return. Remember to contact the person when you have returned safely.
Failing to take proper precautions not only endangers the lives of those who have chosen to enter the water, but also those who are called to rescue them.
Enough is enough. Let’s keep the rescue teams on dry land for the rest of the summer.