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Great Lakes: Great vacation, great risk

According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been more than 1,000 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010.
Great Lakes: Great vacation, great risk
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 5:22 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As the weather gets warmer you may consider taking a dip in one of the Great Lakes. But, even for the most experienced swimmers, the Great Lakes can be very dangerous.

Six people have died in 2022 on Lake Michigan. In fact, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, this year there have been 12 possible drownings in the Great Lakes, and more than 1,000 since 2010.

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Experts say a lot of those deaths happen because people don’t understand just how rough these waters can be. Dave Benjamin is with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“If you don’t understand that there’s a difference between knowing how to swim and knowing how to survive, that’s a big problem,” Benjamin said. “Because people who ‘know how to swim’ drown.”

Benjamin wanted News 10 to point out that a lot of us are taught how to swim, but swimming education often doesn’t cover what to if you’re starting to struggle.

Jennifer Mullins’s is taking precautions to protect two-year-old daughter when she starts lake swimming this summer.

Mullins said, “This year, thankfully, she’s a little bit older and she’s above 30 pounds so she can wear her life jacket to the beach this summer.”

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Mullins isn’t stopping at the life jacket. Her daughter will be learning how to swim, and also learning how to float, so she knows what to do in an emergency.

“I just think it’s important for all families and parents to take swim lessons with their kids,” she said.

Benjamin grew up swimming, but wasn’t taught a key skill for water survival.

He said, “I wasn’t taught how to float!”

He nearly drowned while surfing at the age of 40. Since then, he’s been teaching people how they can avoid the same danger.

“What we advocate is someone is struggling with water over their head is if they ‘flip, float and follow’ so they flip over on their back and they float,” he said.

‘Flip, float and follow’ ensures a person doesn’t panic and keeps their head above water. Knowing this can help people stay safe while they enjoy the water Michigan is so famous for.

If you plan on heading to the beach soon you can find more safety resources on the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project website.

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