GUILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Summer-like weather took hold over the weekend, sending people to the water to cool off.
Unfortunately for two Connecticut residents, that cooling off proved to be fatal. In the towns of Guilford and Lyme, two separate drownings occurred in two days.
This is a dangerous time of year for swimming in natural bodies of water. The air may be warm, but officials say the water is still cold enough to take someone’s breath away, and cramp the muscles.
“This happens all of the time this time of year,” said State Environmental Conservation Police Captain Keith Williams. “You get the warm air masses [to] come in, temperatures are warm but the water temperature’s still cold.”
On Saturday afternoon, a 16-year-old boy was swimming with friends in Uncas Pond in Lyme. Those friends told State Environmental Conservation Police that the boy was not a strong swimmer, and though the group had pool floats, they did not have any life jackets on hand. His friends say they suddenly noticed that they could not see the boy swimming, and called 9-1-1.
Dive teams recovered the boy’s body, but sadly, the teen later died.
In Guilford, a 34-year-old kayaker lost his paddle in Lake Quonnipaug on Sunday afternoon. Police say he tried to retrieve his paddle and his kayak capsized, forcing him into the water. He was about 200 yards offshore and wasn’t wearing a life jacket, according to Capt. Williams.
Dive teams responded to the incident, but the kayaker was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
In light of these events, experts are offering some tips to keep people safe on the water. Some advice they want residents to know is to never swim alone, never swim after drinking alcohol, to never dive into water if you don’t know how deep it is and to only swim where a lifeguard or experienced swimmers are watching.
There were no lifeguards at the locations where the two people drowned. Uncas Pond is not a designated state swimming area so there are no lifeguards there.
Lifeguards say people should always wear life jackets when they are in a kayak or on a paddleboard and if they are not a strong swimmer, they should also wear one.
State police trooper Christian Londono keeps diving equipment in his truck at all times. He has been on the state police dive team for around seven years. His team was among those who responded to the two drownings that happened this past weekend.
“There is no shame in having one of these devices on you to help you stay afloat,” Londono said.
On Monday, DEEP was conducting lifeguard supervisor training at Hammonasset Beach State Park. During training, they do not keep anyone in the water more than 20 minutes right now, because the cold temperatures can cause hypothermia and make it more difficult to swim.
One thing people can do to try to save themselves is float on their back if they are in trouble to save energy. It will also help them to calm down.
“Fill your lungs, which are your internal flotation device, full of air so that will help keep you afloat, especially your airway. Float, get your energy back, and then try to attempt to swim back to shore,” said Sarah Battistini, a water safety coordinator with DEEP.
Starting on Memorial Day weekend, lifeguards will be on duty at Hammonasset Beach State Park and Rocky Neck State Park. They will not be able to man any of the other beaches on the shoreline or inland until they can hire more lifeguards.
“It’s 80 hours worth of training to be a lifeguard,” Battistini said. “It’s all paid for. It’s part of your job.”
There are still plenty of openings and the state is hoping more people will apply.
If you are interested in applying, click here.