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Our View: Follow some guidelines to stay safe by the ocean

It’s pretty, but it’s deadly

Published on June 11, 2018 10:23AM

Rescuers use a surfboard to pull a man from the water in Seaside in 2014. The man drowned.

Roger Frazier

Rescuers use a surfboard to pull a man from the water in Seaside in 2014. The man drowned.

In the last 20 years, we doubt a year has gone by without some sort of tragedy on the Oregon and Southwest Washington coasts.

The latest drownings, Wednesday afternoon at Rockaway Beach, have ripped a Colorado family apart.

Samuel Allen, 17, was body boarding without a wetsuit and struggled to get back to the shore, according to the Coast Guard. His father, Robert Allen, 50, went into the water to assist. His stepmother lost sight of them and called 911.

Two Coast Guard helicopter crews arrived. A rescue swimmer pulled an unresponsive Robert Allen from the water, provided CPR and transferred him to emergency medical technicians on the beach, but he died.

Helicopters and a Coast Guard cutter searched through the night for Samuel Allen, but called off the effort the next morning.

Mother Nature is so unforgiving.

Just because the sun is shining, it does not mean that it’s safe to go out into the ocean. That water is cold, and the risk of potentially fatal hypothermia is real.

Logs, riptides and waves are among the biggest dangers.

We have repeatedly issued warnings about the dangers of logs in the water and on shore. Their weight when tossed by a wave can knock a swimmer unconscious.

The American Red Cross offers safety tips about rip currents that bear repeating.

First up is the admonition to only swim in areas patrolled by lifeguards. That ought to be obvious, but too often it isn’t. And never swim alone.

If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current, safety experts advise. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. And once you are free, turn and swim toward shore.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is equally vigorous in its warnings, noting that rip currents account for four out of five of ocean rescues performed by lifeguards

NOAA warns about shorebreaks, too. These are ocean conditions that occur when waves break directly on the shore, and a significant cause of spinal injuries.

Small or high waves can be equally as unpredictable and dangerous and typically form when there is a rapid transition from deep to shallow water. 

Our beaches are among our greatest natural wonders. They can be fun, a terrific source of pleasure and create lasting memories from childhood to adulthood. But they also come with dangers, too. Locals and visitors alike should heed those warnings and work to stay safe.


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