KIRO-TV in Seattle is reporting a story about a man who drowned while swimming at a local lake. According to the news story (watch the video), the family is going to be contacting to county to find out why there wasn't a lifeguard on duty, and why the park they were at wasn't closed because there was no lifeguard on duty.
I think I know why there wasn't a lifeguard on duty - the county doesn't have the money to pay lifeguards. The county has posted signs at all swimming areas that there are no lifeguards on duty, and that people swim at their own risk.
This man's death is a tragedy - he was reportedly a strong swimmer, and the fact that this happened on Father's Day makes it more poignant. The pain the family is feeling is real and needs to be handled, but not by petitioning the county to either hire lifeguards or close local parks. Hiring life guards will require higher taxes, and closing parks just gives the county one less reason to exist. I'm tired of having money stolen from me at gunpoint (yes, all taxes are armed robbery - try not paying them) to help keep people safe from themselves. Life has risks, and in this case, the risk was posted in red letters on a white sign. If this family is illiterate, then our schools have failed us - again (but that's another essay).
One other thing this family needs to know - lifeguards are not required by any law to save lives. I am a trained lifeguard (by the American Red Cross), and one of the things we are taught is that, when someone fights us during a rescue, we should kick away and let them burn themselves out. If we cannot help someone (too big, too much fight, or we would be putting ourselves in danger attempting the rescue), we should kick away and let them go. The reasoning? It's better for one person to drown than for two people to drown. Even if there was a lifeguard there and on duty, there is a chance nothing could have been done. There is no telling what their reaction to that situation would be, although I would guess a lawsuit naming the guard, the county, and the Red Cross would be on it's way through the courts right now.
This was a tragic accident, and this family needs help in dealing with their grief, but turning to the county for some sort of perverted closure by asserting that everyone is incapable of keeping themselves safe is not the answer.
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