Sunday 30 August 2015

An unusual visit to the beach

Today was like lots of times we've been to the beach, or played near a creek, until it wasn't.

E and I were at the Kirkland Marina Park, throwing rocks into the water, building rock cairns and knocking them down with stones. Then I got the idea of throwing rocks off the boat jetty into the deep water. We picked up fists full of rocks and walked out onto the jetty. E is miss independent and didn't want to hold my hand, which made me nervous, so I held onto her jacket, which annoyed her just as much. In any case we got to the end and dropped our rocks off one by one while singing the Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme-song. We faffed around on the jetty having a great time, and then went back, got more rocks and did the same thing again.

On the way back we passed, for the second time, a mother and son who were fishing. Not long after we walked past I heard a splash, looked back, and saw the mother jumping into the water fully-clothed. Uh-oh.

I picked up E and ran back and saw the mother struggling to hold her son's head above water. They were trying to hold onto the jetty pole but it was very slippery with algae. It was also crazy windy with whitecaps on the lake and a small swell (I just looked up the monitoring buoy temperature for Lake Washington - turns it was surprisingly warm at 20°C, I assumed it was super cold at the time). I called down that they should swim to the ladder, which was just on the other side of the jetty, maybe 5m away, but they didn't understand or couldn't see it.

I was sorely tempted to jump in and help them, but I knew from first aid training that this often doesn't work out well, you just end up increasing the number of people who need to be rescued. I saw another guy coming up the jetty and called out "we need a life ring!". I ran back to the main part of the jetty and put down E and said DON'T MOVE, in what I hoped was my most authoritative voice. I didn't want to be rescuing her too.

I started running for the boats, figuring I could find some sort of flotation there, but there was nothing to be found, all stowed away. The guy behind me said he could see one and pointed back at the hut near the beach, not far away. I sprinted back and found a few lifejackets, and he came up behind me and grabbed a life ring he had seen.

I sprinted back and dropped the lifejacket down to them, and as I did I realised they were actually closer than I first thought, and I could reach the kid's hands by lying down on my stomach and leaning right over. Luckily he was light, maybe 8 years old, so I could pull him right up out of the water without too much trouble. It's strange what runs through your mind, but as I was doing it I was thinking about the technique for pulling people out of the water using your bodyweight when white-water rafting. Anyway, once he was up I directed the mother to the ladder and climbed down the first few rungs, she swam over there with the help of the life ring and life jacket.

We even managed to recover the fishing rod by pulling on the line, which had gone in with the kid as he stepped back one too many steps to cast. I warned them about secondary drowning, but the kid said he hadn't gotten any water in his mouth.

Em had seen me sprinting and had assumed E had fallen in, and was initially furious that I wasn't in the water rescuing her. She came running and I found her with E and F on the main part of the jetty when all this was over.

We redoubled our commitment to making sure the kids know how to swim.

1 comment:

Lydia said...

How terrifying! I think you acted really well in very stressful circumstances. I'm so terrified of water and drowning too. Maybe I should enroll H in swimming lessons..