3Qs with Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green

By NEMS Daily Journal

Carolyn Gillentine-Green has been Lee County’s coroner for the past six years. With the drowning death of a 16-year-old boy in Appoloosa Lake on April 10, Gillentine-Green answered questions from the Daily Journal’s Danza Johnson about the dangers of swimming in freshwater bodies like lakes, ponds and rivers.

Q: What makes swimming in ponds, rivers and lakes so dangerous even for the most experienced swimmers?
A:Swimming in ponds, lakes and rivers is dangerous primarily because they are unpredictable bodies of water. They are unpredictable in depth, visibility and swift-moving currents. They are also known to have stuff in the water like mud, weeds and other vegetation and slick bottoms that swimmers could get tangled up in, causing problems for them. Unlike swimming pools, if someone goes under in one of these situations, help can’t always find the drowning victim. Even the most experienced swimmers would likely be more likely to drown in this situation as opposed to a pool setting. And this time of year, the cold water makes swimming even more difficult. It causes cramps and other issues that could cause problems for swimmers.

Q: It seems like teens and young adults drown more often in these freshwater bodies. Why is that?
A: Teens and young adults are more apt to drown in this setting because they don’t always consider the dangers and unpredictability of the setting. It’s natural when the weather starts to warm up to want to cool off or swim. With city and public pools not opening until warmer weather, risk-takers sometimes resort to lakes, ponds and rivers to satisfy their swim fix. This is sometimes compounded by the risk-taking propensity of teens and young adults. They simply do not think that anything bad will happen to them. They feel invincible and that feeling can and sometimes does cost them their lives.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who want to swim in these areas?
A:My natural advice, considering the most recent drowning, would be don’t swim in lakes at all. But if you do, make sure you stay in a close proximity to other experienced swimmers. If the water is too cold, consider that and wait until it is warmer to swim. Have floatation and life-saving equipment nearby. Never swim alone in these areas.
I would also recommend that no one swim after drinking alcohol. This lowers your natural cognitive abilities and even the most experienced swimmer could drown due to being intoxicated.