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Near-drowning survivor issues Great Lakes safety warning

Be safe versus sorry while enjoying the water.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As families start making their weekend plans, a trip to local beaches could be part of the fun, but an expert on the Great Lakes is issuing a warning.

He's pushing the importance of education to prevent drowning tragedies like we've seen recently in Northeast Ohio. 

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Co-Founder and Executive Director, Dave Benjamin, mentions the four Ws, wind, waves and weekend.  He says with those circumstances there will probably be another deadly weekend on the Great Lakes.

“It brings a lot more people to the water and wind is really the source of dangerous currents and depending where you are on the lake and which way the wind is blowing is going to determine what types of dangerous currents you might be facing,” he says.

In 2010, Benjamin survived a near drowning incident while surfing in Lake Michigan.

Benjamin recommends considering which way the wind is blowing when you go to the beach.  He says if the wind is blowing on shore there’s a likelihood you’ll have waves coming with the wind.

“When there’s waves, there can be dangerous currents like rip currents, there can be long shore currents which go parallel to shore and there can also be structural currents around piers,” he explains.

He says if the wind is blowing off shore or side off shore anything that floats, like inflatable rafts, inner tubes or toys could possibly flow fast and far off shore.

“Unfortunately people may swim after their flotation devices trying to rescue their toy and unfortunately people have swam out into water over their head and now they’re exhausted and don’t have the energy to swim back.”

Benjamin says education is key.

“You never play in fire but you know a fire survival strategy, you always play in water every summer, every vacation, every pool that you go to you play in water but very few people know a drowning survival strategy.”

He recommends using a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.

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