Why Drownings are Up This Year

Charlotte, N.C. (WJZY) -- This Summer, the number of drownings in local waterways is higher than it has been in decades, according to the Charlotte Fire Department. That number is now up to six, just in the past six weeks including Sunday's drowning of a 20-year-old at Tuckaseegee Park.

One of the scariest things is that some of the victims died in water that wasn't even over their heads.

"One of the number one thing is I get asked every time is how deep is the water. They don't understand that this is a river not a swimming pool. You take one step in your this deep one more step in your that deep next of your over your head," said Deb Nahikian with the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.

This Monday the Foundation is teaching kids how to have fun and stay safe on the water. Learning to swim is a basic skill that's actually less common than it used to be, according to the Charlotte Fire Department

"35% of Caucasian Americans don't know how to swim 65% for Latino population and the African-American population is 85 to 90%," said Chief Tim Rogers.

He says the key is knowing how to handle yourself when panic sets in. This is a skill called "Drownproofing".

"It's actually counterintuitive. Relax. Position your body control your breathing and make sure that what you do with your arms and feet get you to a better place, safer place," said Rogers.

Rogers says if you allow your body to panic and you start flailing your limbs in the water you only have 40 to 60 seconds before you drown. The three key things to staying safe in the water wear a life jacket learn how to swim and have a buddy system someone watching.

Emergency responders say from the moment someone goes underwater and start sinking to the bottom they only have six minutes to rescue and resuscitate that person. Yet another reason why they say prevention is so important.