Geneva Police Issue Warning on Water Safety—As One-Year Anniversary of River Drowning Approaches
As the Aug. 5 anniversary if Randy Suchy's death approaches, Geneva police remind residents of the dangers of the Fox River dam.
As the one-year anniversary of Randy Suchy's tragic drowning death approaches, Geneva police officials are reminding area residents to stay away from the dam.
The 59-year-old Naperville man died on Aug. 5 after trying to save the life of a 12-year-old boy who was fishing with him and had fallen into the Fox River at the Geneva dam.
A group of bicyclists—later recognized for their "uncommon bravery"—saw Suchy struggling to save the boy, contacted police and joined efforts to save them. Geneva Police Department and Fire Department personnel jumped into the roiling water, pulled the man and the boy to safety but could not resuscitate Suchy.
Now, almost a year later, the river is lower than past years due to the drought. But it is no less dangerous. Despite warning signs, many fishermen have resumed wading into the Fox River near the dam, choosing not to acknowledge the signs.
“While the drought has definitely lowered the water level, the water still travels over the dam with significant force, causing the boil to be a dangerous place," Geneva police Cmdr. Eric Passarelli said. "The bottom of the river is also very uneven, so while you may be able to walk in some locations and have the water level at your ankles. It can quickly drop off and be much deeper."
Also this year, the Chicago Sun-Times reports there have been 10 drowning deaths in the area so far this summer. Nine of the deaths happened in Lake Michigan, the other in a pool in Joliet. The Department of Children and Family Services is investigating the Joliet death, according to a report by CBS Chicago.
“You should never take any body of water for granted," Passarelli said. "Assure that children are supervised at all times. With small children, the CDC recommends touch supervision, meaning that the caregiver is able to immediately grab the child if there is a problem. A drowning death can occur in as little as 1 inch of water and generally happens very quickly and very quietly."
Geneva police are issuing a warning, and reminding residents throughout the area to follow some of the basic swimming safety advice recommended by the American Red Cross.
For lakes, rivers, pools and ponds—whatever the activity—observe the cardinal rules of water activity:
Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
Know local weather conditions. Make sure the water and weather conditions are safe. Because water conducts electricity, it is wise to stop swimming, boating or any activities on the water as soon as you see or hear a storm. Also, heavy rains can make certain areas dangerous.
Learn to swim.
The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim, period.
Know where to swim and play.
Only swim and play in areas that:
- Are supervised. A Red Cross-trained lifeguard who can help in an emergency is the best safety factor. Even good swimmers can have an unexpected medical emergency in the water. Never swim alone.
- Are clean and well-maintained. A clean bathhouse, clean restrooms, and a litter-free environment show the management’s concern for your health and safety. Have good water quality and safe, natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs and aquatic plant life are hazards. Water pollution can cause health problems for swimmers. Strong tides, big waves, and currents can turn an event that began as fun into a tragedy. Have well-maintained rafts and docks. A well-run open-water facility maintains its rafts and docks in good condition, with no loose boards or exposed nails.
- Areas underneath a raft or dock. Always look before jumping off a dock or raft to be sure no one is in the way.
- Areas above and below a dam.
- Drainage ditches. Drainage ditches for water run-off are not good places for swimming or playing in the water. After heavy rains, they can quickly change into raging rivers that can easily take a human life. Even the strongest swimmers are no match for the power of the water. Fast water and debris in the current make ditches and very dangerous.
- Piers, pilings and diving platforms when in the water.
Think before you wade or jump
Make sure the water is deep enough before entering headfirst. Many swimmers are seriously injured every year by entering headfirst into water that is too shallow. A feet-first entry is much safer than diving.
Water that appears calm on the surface may have a current below the surface. Do not underestimate the power of an unseen current If you are caught in a current and being swept away, roll over onto your back and go downstream feet first to avoid hitting your head. When you are out of the strongest part of the current, swim straight toward shore.
Don’t try to swim against a current if caught in one. Swim gradually out of the current, by swimming across it.
A hydraulic is a strong force created by water flowing downward over an object, then reversing its flow. The reverse flow of the water can trap and hold a person under. If you are caught in a hydraulic, do not fight it but swim to the bottom and then swim out with the current to reach the surface.
Watch out for the dangerous “too’s”—too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
If you own a swimming pool, assure that children are always supervised. Drowning is silent and quick. Police ask residents to please take steps to assure that your pool is not accessible to unsupervised children.
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