Minnesota drownings are up this summer

Published 9:19 am Thursday, July 5, 2012

ST. PAUL — More people have drowned in Minnesota this year than any other in a decade, according to Department of Natural Resources data.

At least 25 people drowned in nonboating-related incidents, including eight in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, through July 1, the DNR said. There have been six boating-related drownings this year, compared with five last year. Last year, there were 13 drownings statewide.

A 5-year-old boy drowned last Tuesday at Round Lake in Chisago County.

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“We are way higher than years past,” said Tim Smalley, boat- and water-safety specialist for the DNR. “There’s just been more exposure. It’s been a hot summer and an early hot summer, and when it’s hot, people go to the water.”

What is happening are the same factors that have always been precursors to drowning: people who overestimate their swimming ability, mixing alcohol with water-related activities and not enough adult supervision of children in and around water, Smalley said.

“Those are always kind of the big three you can point to,” Smalley said.

Drownings also have been on the rise in pools.

The Twin Cities Metro Water Safety Task Force was created last fall by area nonprofits, police departments and the DNR in response to a record-breaking number of pool drownings in Hennepin County in 2011. The force gave presentations in apartment complexes throughout Hennepin County on what drowning looks like and how to help. The group even gave swimming lessons.