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Irving Young's Mama Mia

Lifeguards pull five to safety during holiday weekend

June 02, 2010 | 08:30 AM
Hot temperatures and sunny skies this holiday weekend sent thousands to Geneva Lake beaches to seek fun and relief from the heat.

But, that nearly turned to tragedy for five people involved in near drownings. The Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol lifeguards pulled five people from the water in four separate incidents during the three-day weekend.

"I feel very good that all the lifeguards were on top of it," Pankau said. "It was the official opening of the beaches and they didn't miss a beat, recognizing these individuals were having trouble. I really do believe that had we not been there, there may have been some lives lost."

According to Pankau, the combination of the heat along with rare warm Geneva Lake water temperatures, which were registered at 72 degrees between Fontana and Williams Bay, brought people to the beaches and into the water.

"It was a really busy weekend — more like a July 4 weekend than a Memorial Day weekend," Water Safety Patrol Director Ted Pankau said. "It was probably the busiest the beaches have been in two years."

On Saturday, a 21-year-old Illinois man was pulled to safety by a lifeguard at Fontana Beach after he began struggling in the deep water near the edge of the swimming area.

On Sunday, lifeguards pulled out two men in separate incidents at Lake Geneva's Riviera Beach. The first was a 25-year-old Bartlett, Ill., man who struggled to stay afloat after experiencing a leg cramp. The second was a 48-year-old Elgin, Ill., man who began having trouble keeping his head above water and became submerged briefly before lifeguards pulled him to safety. He was treated by the Lake Geneva Rescue Squad.

On Monday, lifeguards averted a potential double drowning when a 16-year-old boy from Elgin, Ill., slipped under the water.

His friend, an 18-year-old Elgin man tried to assist him, but was pulled under by the first victim. Water Safety Patrol lifeguards rushed into the water and pulled the two apart and onto the shore where they were met by the Lake Geneva Rescue Squad.

Pankau said the incidents occurred beyond the orange buoys placed to signify where the lake becomes deeper.

"That does take some people by surprise," Pankau said. "You need to be able to swim if you are going out there."

Water Safety Patrol lifeguards are Red Cross certified, which includes CPR, First Aid and use of a defibrillator. During the summer, the lifeguards also will receive additional training.

"They responded as well as they could," Pankau said of his lifeguards.

There also was a potential drowning incident at one of the outdoor pools at Grand Geneva. However, efforts to reach Lyons Fire Department officials Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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