Hidden dangers in Louisiana waterways

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The American Red Cross has issued a stern warning for swimmers who take risks.

When it gets hot it's not hard to find a swimming hole to cool off in Louisiana. The Sportsman's Paradise is known for its rivers and manmade lakes. Many businesses bank on the waterways. But there are many areas in the Bayou State that are open around the clock.

As tempting as it might be to take a dip, American Red Cross Training and Development Manager, Jodi Tolliver, warned the risk of drowning doubles.

'It can happen under a second," Tolliver said.

Cadaver dogs and search crews have found the body of the Melanie Borja, 22. She disappeared in the Bogue Chitto River on Sunday after jumping from an inner tube.

The drowning marks the tenth in southeast Louisiana since the Memorial Day weekend.

On Tuesday night, a mother of three died in the Amite River when authorities said she went in after one of her children. Her body was found trapped under a log.

On July 26, a ten-year-old on a fishing trip drowned in Bayou Lafourche when he slid into the water at foot of the bridge.

On July 15, a 25 year old man went under in the Amite River. His friends said he jumped in and never came back up.

"It's too many. One drowning is too many."

Tolliver advises no one to swim in unsupervised areas but said she realizes some are willing to take their chances and should proceed with caution.

"It's murky. You can't see the bottom. You don't know what's down there, what kind of debris is down there with the floods that have happened."

Tolliver said if you insist on swimming in unfamiliar or unsupervised bodies of water you should watch others closely, especially those who are not strong swimmers; keep children within arm's reach; be aware of obstacles; and bring safety equipment. She added that means making sure swim gear is in working order.

"Too many times they rely on floaties or life jackets that aren't tied. You can't rely on that equipment. An ounce of prevention will help save a life."

If someone does appear to be struggling in the water, Tolliver suggested you should only jump to their rescue after you've called 911. But she said it should be your last resort.

"The world's best swimmer can drown."

A strong swimmer, she said, means making intelligent choices, and sometimes that means finding a safer place to cool off.

Tolliver said it is also a good idea to go swimming with someone who knows how to give CPR.

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