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How to save yourself from drowning in a riptide

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 6:16 PM EDT
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NEW BUFFALO, Mich. (WNDU) - The red flag was out at New Buffalo City Beach Monday, along with the high waves. And even though Lake Michigan was off limits, it did not stop some beach-goers from testing the waters -- the same waters that claimed the life of a 24-year-old man, who presumingly drowned last Thursday.

“That 24-year-old man who went missing in New Buffalo...if he had a life jacket on, he’d still be alive,” Great Lakes Surf and Rescue co-founder David Benjamin says.

But for now, he’s still missing. And before anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation, Benjamin is offering a hand on how you can get out of the water while in the middle of a rip-tide.

“If you are struggling in water over your head, you need to understand, it’s not a sprint to get out of the water, it’s a marathon,” Benjamin says.

In three simple steps, Benjamin says if you are drowning, you should first flip over onto your back, float and get your head above water, and follow the current until you reach the shore or help arrives.

“If you can instruct someone to rollover on their back and float. And then, from there, get their breathing under control, that is going to alleviate some of the panic. Then you instruct them to say, ‘Hey look, we’re going to float as long as we can until we get out of this until rescue arrives.’ If you exert all your energy and exhaust yourself, you are going to submerge,” Benjamin says.

Benjamin says using these safety tips can help save lives.

As for the flag system, according to Benjamin, it was built for the same purpose but has not lived up to the same expectations.

“What we do know is the flag system, without lifeguards, has failed over and over and over again. The gold standard is you have life guards, who are managing the flag system in real time, and on duty especially when it’s most dangerous,” Benjamin says.

Lake Michigan is closed for swimming Monday and is expected to remain that way into Tuesday and Wednesday, as waves are predicted to reach up to six feet high and risk of rip currents.

Copyright 2020 WNDU. All rights reserved.

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