By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Creeks and canals may look like good refuges from scorching temperatures, but they can be death traps if you aren’t careful.
With one possible drowning in a canal and a near miss just in the past week, Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green warns swimmers to enter shallow bodies of water at their own risk.
Last Saturday, a 20-year-old man was plucked from Bay Springs Lake and airlifted to North Mississippi Medical Center after nearly drowning.
Also, the coroner is awaiting an autopsy report to determine if a man found in a Guntown canal behind his house Tuesday died from drowning. According to Gillentine-Green, the unpredictability of these types of waters makes them very dangerous.
“There is really no way to tell how deep or what all is in the bottom of these creeks and canals when people decide to swim in them,” she said. “I see more drownings from these types of waters when the weather is hot than any other form of drowning.”
Gillentine-Green said unpredictable currents can cause drownings, and even the best swimmers can fall victim to them.
Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker said he’s seen his share of drownings and expects creeks and canals to be popular spots with temperatures inching toward 100 degrees.
“The best advice we can give is to know where you are swimming and never go alone,” he said. “Most of the time the water is so murky you can’t tell if it’s 10 feet or two feet, so diving is a big no-no.”
Walker said murky water makes rescues more difficult because there is no way to see under the water.
Both Gillentine-Green and Walker said children are at higher risk of drowning in creeks.
“They are drawn to the water like magnets to metal,” Walker said.
If you are unsure or unfamiliar with a certain body of water, then don’t go in, he said.
Tips for swimming in creeks and canals
- Never dive into an unknown body of water. It could be shallow.
- Always swim with a partner.
- Never swim in water with which you are unfamiliar.
- If you get caught in a strong current, swim parallel to it and let the current take you to the bank. If you can, float with the current to the bank.