BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Metroparks is providing some important tips after a father and one of his six children drowned Monday night in Berea's Wallace Lake.
37-year-old Veniamin Loitsky and his six children were fishing at Wallace Lake on Monday evening. According to the Loitsky family, 11-year-old daughter Lily unexpectedly stepped into a part of the water that had a sudden drop.
Veniamin went into the water along with his 10-year-old son Luke to try to rescue Lily, while the other children were able to find an adult who called 911. The family says by the time someone came to their aid and emergency crews arrived, Lily, Veniamin, and Luke had been underwater for over 20 minutes.
Veniamin and Luke both were pronounced dead on Monday at Southwest General Hospital, while Lila died on Friday at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cleveland Metroparks gave the following statement to 3News following the drowning, which includes a warning about swimming in designated swimming areas, plus other tips:
"We urge guests to follow our swimming safety tips when swimming in Cleveland Metroparks: swim only in designated swimming areas and only when lifeguards are present, never swim alone, inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets, and never leave children unattended near the water. Visit clevelandmetroparks.com/watersafety.
At Wallace Lake we urge guests to only swim at the designated swim area which has beach access, is roped off, shallow, and in a highly visible location.
As an inland lake, the water at Wallace Lake is generally calm but the area where this incident occurred is not in the designated swim area and is towards the southern portion of the lake, obscured from view by tree cover, and has varying and unpredictable lake depths. Cleveland Metroparks does not have another drowning incident on record at Wallace Lake.
Our heartfelt sympathies are with the family involved in this tragic incident."
Unfortunately, we've seen several water safety accidents already this year. As we head into the holiday weekend, experts are reminding people to follow the rules whether headed to a pool or lake. Also, make sure both you and your children are properly trained before getting in.
"It's important that our kids are safe and water competent. Again when we're looking at folks entering the water, we want to make sure they enter water that's above their head, that they can turn and look for an exit and be able to swim to that exit to get themselves to safety," says Branden Burns, Twinsburg Aquatics Manager and Red Cross Water Safety Instructor.
Keep in mind, lake swimming has hidden dangers you won't find in pools, like rip currents that can pull you under or away from shore.
"So we always recommend folks go to designated swim areas. Don't swim in areas that are not safe for swimming. You want to stay away from piers or areas like that because you can get drawn in and get in trouble in rocks or areas like that," Burns adds.
And never swim alone. Try to swim in guarded areas if at all possible. There are many areas where guards aren't available at all times, even in designated swim areas. In those situations, designate your own "water watcher" who is responsible for keeping an eye on the group.
If you do get into trouble, Burns says to think before you sink.
"Relax, take a breath," he advises. "If you can tilt your head back and float, that's what you want to do."
Boaters also have to take precautions. Always wear a life jacket and make sure your equipment and monitoring systems are fully functioning.
Finally, if you see someone in distress, be sure to reach or throw...but don't go.
"Reach out to them and get them a noodle, get them a flotation device, but don't go in after them," says Burns.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the Lozitsky family.