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Brother’s Drowning Death Motivates Woman to Save Lives

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- As the temperatures warm up, Gov. Terry Branstad is encouraging Iowans to be more aware of the dangers of water. He signed a proclamation Thursday, declaring June 19 through June 25 as Drowning Prevention Week.

For a central Iowa woman, she knows the dangers of drowning all too well. She is using her experiences to help educate others.

“This is the water that took my brother,” said Kari Dodson.

Twenty years ago Thursday, Dodson’s 21-year-old brother, William, drowned when his raft capsized near a spillway. He was not wearing a life jacket.

“He was my best friend and he still is. He may not be here physically, but he’s my best friend,” Dodson said.

William was fearless, especially when it came to water.  He was a strong swimmer, but not even that could keep him immune from the water's dangers.

“He died doing something that he loved,” Dodson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental drownings are the leading cause of death for kids under the age of five.  It's ranked fourth for adults.

Last year, 332 people drowned in boating related accidents nationwide. Iowa accounted for 30 of those.

Ever since her brother’s death, Dodson’s love for water has gone dry.

“We used to go diving on this dock and swim in here and have a great time with our friends. I just can’t even come to it any more. I can’t enjoy it like I used too,” she said.

That's why she's is urging adults to take the water seriously.

“I hope that they learn to respect the water. If it’s high, if it’s been raining, don’t get in. Don’t go alone. Wear a life jacket,” Dodson said.

She said she hopes other families learn from her painful memory.

“If this even saves one life, it’s worth everything,” she said.

Other factors that affect drowning risks are alcohol use, lack of barriers around areas of water and lack of supervision.