EDITORIAL: Unpredictable waters and the need for safety

Anyone who regularly enjoys recreation on the water likely has had a close call. Bodies of water are unpredictable, it’s never the same lake, stream or ocean twice.

Conditions can change rapidly and this spring and summer have been especially volatile when it comes to weather and how that may affect waterways.

Sadly, two teens died this month while going for a swim in the Farmington River. While the official investigation is still underway, it appears to be a drowning situation. Lucas Brewer, 15, a student at Plainville High, and Anthony Nagore, 17, who was visiting family in Plainville, went for a swim July 15 and didn’t return home. Their bodies were found July 19. A heartbreaking outcome for their family, friends, schoolmates and community.

The search for the two young men was called off several times as strong currents and high water made the effort too dangerous for search and recovery teams, even after the Army Corps of Engineers tried to reduce the water flow from the Colebrook Dam.

Since then, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s police force has urged people to avoid waterways, engorged and dangerous due to all the rain. Water levels are six or seven times higher than usual.

The Farmington River the past few weeks has not been the familiar river that kayakers, anglers and swimmers usually enjoy. After recent torrential rains, it roared by at a dizzying speed, ruthlessly cutting into banks, spewing froth. Fiercer than many had seen in a long time.

Most of us have experienced that moment of misjudgment, that time we get caught off guard during what began as a fun outing. Perhaps you’ve taken the kayak for a paddle and out of nowhere a thunderstorm swells into the sky, chasing you back to shore wondering if you can dodge the lightning.

At the beach, recent storms have brought enticing waves, a bit bigger and wilder than usual. But with those storms, the waves can get too rough and the undertow stronger than usual. Even strong swimmers may find themselves out of their comfort zone.

When it gets hot, the impulse to get in the water and cool off is strong. But some of us haven’t been out to the lake or the shore or even the pool in a while. Our skills may be rusty, our equipment in need of a check. Depending on the situation, other factors may have to be considered, such as how much alcohol has been consumed, or whether there’s a lifeguard on duty, or who is watching the toddler.

Summer gives us so much to look forward to, maybe more so this year as we come out of seclusion. But the loss of Anthony and Lucas casts a shadow over these days that should be carefree. While the warning their death generates may not comfort those who loved them, it’s a warning that should wake us up to making a serious check of water conditions and the safety of the situation, each and every time.

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