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Lifeguards rescue 26 from water

Water Safety Patrol breaks record for water pullouts

August 27, 2013 | 02:52 PM
This is a record year for rescues by the Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol, according to Ted Pankau, the patrol's director.

Although a cool late May and June made for a slow start to the swimming season, a July heat wave brought huge crowds to the 12 public and private beaches patrolled by Water Safety Patrol lifeguards.

This year, so far, patrol lifeguards have pulled 26 people from the water who were experiencing difficulties while swimming, Pankau said.

A cool stretch since the start of August slowed things down at the beaches for a while.

However, a renewed stretch of warm weather brought the beaches back to life. This past weekend, the patrol surpassed last year's record of 25 pullouts, Pankau said.

The good news is, as of Monday, there have been no fatal accidents on the lake. The last fatality occurred in 2011, Pankau said.

Of particular concern this year is warning boaters to not jump of their boats to go swimming unless several precautions are taken.

Pankau said there were several near-drownings this summer involving people who, while boating alone, decide to jump off their boat to go swimming.

The wind pushes the boat away from the swimmer, and the swimmer then can't get back into the boat.

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It's not illegal to jump off your own boat into the lake, Pankau said. But an ordinance adopted by all communities on Geneva Lake require at least one experienced boater remain onboard when others are in the water, Pankau said.

And, it might be a good idea to wear a personal flotation device when going overboard for a dip, he added.

This year, state water safety rules now require paddle boards to have a personal flotation device on board.

Some paddle board users strap the life jacket on back of the paddle board to comply with the law, Pankau said.

"You don't have to wear it, but that would be a good idea,' Pankau said.

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New to the lake this year are Flyboards and jet packs, which use high-pressure streams of water to lift riders into the air.

Although the high-flying devices appear inherently unsafe, there has been no record of accident or injury from their use, so far, Pankau said.

"It's safe when out in the open water," he said. Speed is not an issue, either.

"They don't travel very fast," Pankau said.

The state DNR recently ruled that the Flyboards and jet packs must follow personal watercraft (PWC) rules.

Otherwise, state regulation of this new form of water recreation is still a work in progress, Pankau said.


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