For the Cumberland Times-News
CUMBERLAND — The death of a 25-year-old Delaware man in the Susquehanna River over the weekend brings the total water-related casualties in Maryland this year to 12 — double that of this time in 2012.
Gov. Martin O’Malley and law enforcement officials are urging everyone to help put a stop to the trend by protecting themselves and their loved ones by taking the necessary safety precautions in and around the water.
“One month ago we issued a plea for citizens and visitors to make personal safety a top priority while enjoying our state’s waterways; sadly since then six more lives have been lost to drowning,” said O’Malley.
The Maryland Natural Resources Police urges all swimmers and boaters to develop a precautionary safety and rescue plan before heading out, keep a close watch on children and nonswimmers, wear a life jacket and have flotation devices on hand.
“While last year the state had 11 boating deaths — under the 10-year average of 13 — in 2011, two dozen died on Maryland waterways,” said NRP Col. George Johnson IV. “If we do not act now, we are in danger of seeing the same outcome as 2011.”
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. On average, 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day.
NRP is also continuing to aggressively target those boating in a reckless or negligent manner and/or under the influence of alcohol. The maximum penalty for operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for the first offense.
NRP reminds boaters and swimmers to:
• Wear a life jacket and have a flotation rescue device handy when out on the water. All children under the age of 13 are required to wear a certified life jacket aboard a boat less than 21 feet long.
• Swim near a lifeguard. According to U.S. Lifesaving Association 10-year statistics, the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times greater than drowning at a beach with lifeguards.
• Never boat or swim alone or while impaired.
• Check weather and tides before heading out. Anticipate changes and bring all craft ashore when rough weather threatens. Wait at least 30 minutes before resuming activities after the last incidence of thunder or lightning.
• Don’t fight the current. Swim parallel to the shoreline to break free and then to shore.
• Pay special attention to small children.