As the day progressed, and the constant noise of the police scanner traffic filled the newsroom, I couldn’t help but think, what the heck is going on? It’s days like these that I am sure people turn on the news and say “why are they only reporting on death and destruction?” Well, because that’s all that’s been happening lately it seems!
In our news cast today we had a homicide followup, a fatal boat crash followup, and a drowning followup. That was all in the show before I showed up at 1:30. While I was here, we added a rollover accident, a car through an apartment and another drowning. Could someone please tell me what is going on?
My day started off following the fatal boat crash. The victim turned out to be a well-known local musician, who was loved by everyone. Seriously; everyone we talked to didn’t have a bad word to say about him. He had impacted so many people through his self-less personality and especially his music. (If you’re from the Des Moines area, you probably heard of him- Kelly Starrett.) And judging from all the people we spoke to about him, you probably will keep hearing about him and his music. He was a big part of the Des Moines scene, and a big loss for the community.
While out looking for people to talk to on that, there was a call on a drowning at Raccoon River Park. In this career, it’s inevitable that some stories will hit close to home, and drag up some personal memories one way or another. This was one of those.
When I was in college, I life-guarded at a lake during the summer.
My last summer, of my senior year, we had a drowning. I remember it so clearly. I was in the stand, and my friend and fellow life guard, Alex, was sitting in the sand next to me. Some kids had been fooling around out by the buoy almost all day, and we’d had to yell at them several times for goofing off. But all of sudden, it was very clear they weren’t messing around anymore. All of a sudden, one of the young kids (17 years old) went under. The other started flailing frantically. Alex didn’t hesitate and ran straight to the water. I followed clearing the rest of the water on my way. By the time I got out there, Alex had rescued the boy that was flailing, but the other was still under the water. I remember feeling panicked. How could this happen? Training kicked in. We started searching and searching the area he went down. Soon patrons from the beach came out to help. There were a dozen of us looking, searching, watching each other to make sure no one else went under. 15 minutes later we found him- right as the ambulance and police arrived.
Arriving at the beach today, we heard a similar story- only no lifeguards. The patrons that ran out to help shared the same thoughts I remember thinking on that day, every time I went under again- “I hope I find him this time, but at the same time, I am afraid to find him.” The men and women who went after the young man today said the same thing I remember saying when asked about how I acted during the situation- it was auto-pilot. You just do it. You don’t have time to think.
I was surprised there were no lifeguards at this beach. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be, I am pretty sure the beach I used to work at either no longer has lifeguards, or has significantly cut back. As a former lifeguard faced with a drowning situation, I have to wonder why? I mean, I understand the whole “swim at your own risk” but there are those situations beyond control. The young man in my situation for example, had a heart attack. How do predict something like that? And the panic that can set in, even for an experienced swimmer- its nice to have someone standing by trained to help quickly and efficiently.
That’s just my opinion, but I am curious what people who haven’t been in the lifeguard chair think- all you who are the swimmers. Should there be lifeguards at public beaches?How much of safety should be in the swimmers/ beach patrons hands? Just something I happen to think about whenever something like this happens.
Hope to hear from some of you- about either topic.