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NRP, State Parks Officials Urge Water Safety after Deadly July 4 Weekend

Officer assists a boater who fell from a speeding jet ski on the Severn River

Officer assists a boater who fell from a speeding jet ski on the Severn River

Cool, refreshing, inviting—and potentially deadly.

“Maryland is blessed with many lakes and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay that are perfect spots to gather with friends and family to cool off,” said DNR Secretary Joe Gill. “But those places also can be dangerous if you aren’t prepared or you don’t respect the power of water.”

Two people drowned in State waters and several others had to be rescued July 4th weekend by lifeguards or emergency crews.

Officer assists two swimmers in danger of being struck by boat traffic


The Maryland Natural Resources Police has investigated nine water-related fatalities so far this year. The total for all of last year was 19 fatalities. Those numbers do not include deaths handled by local jurisdictions, such as the two swimming fatalities in Ocean City last month, or accidents that occurred at private establishments.

This year, the victims range in age from 22 to 56. They include a commercial waterman, three swimmers, four men boating in protected waters and an inexperienced kayaker on a miles-wide stretch of the Potomac River.

Col. George F. Johnson IV, superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said that while lifeguards and first responders are there to help people in distress, the best way to avoid trouble is to take responsibility for your own safety.

“Certainly, there are things that are beyond your control or simply can’t be anticipated,” Johnson said. “But by following common-sense guidelines developed by safety experts you can reduce your risk and pave the way to a trouble-free outing.”

Some tips from the experts:

  • Obey lifeguards and law enforcement officers. Heed warning signs and flags
  • Insist that young children or inexperienced swimmers wear a well-fitting Coast Guard-approved life jacket in and the around water
  • Make sure an adult watches children and the elderly when at water’s edge. Keep young children within arm’s reach. If more than one adult is in attendance, take turns being the “Designated Kid Watcher.”
  • Swim sober and never swim alone
  • Stay alert and check local weather conditions. Carry a cell phone.
  • Make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore
  • If you get caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.

If you see someone in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, beach ball.