ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, nine people drowned in the Great Lakes over Labor Day weekend, including one unidentified man found in Lake Ontario near Wilson, NY.
Dave Benjamin is the co-founder of the GLSRP. They’ve been tracking drowning deaths since 2010, and he says this was the deadliest Labor Day Weekend they’ve recorded.
“People don’t look at drowning as a public health issue,” he said. “They look at it as a recreational issue.”
Benjamin says there is a stigma against drowning incidents, and people often blame the victim. He himself had a close call while surfing in Lake Michigan a few years ago, even though he always considered himself a strong swimmer.
“I had a bad wipe-out and a non-fatal drowning incident that I was pretty lucky to survive,” he said. “I realized that just simple information could probably help.”
Benjamin says the best thing you can do if you are struggling in water is to go against all of your instincts. Don’t panic, don’t struggle, try to deeply inflate your lungs, and float.
So far there have been 91 confirmed drownings in the Great Lakes this year, including 16 in Lake Ontario.