July 14, 2011

"Two strapping young men who were practicing breath-holding exercises at a Staten Island pool yesterday to prepare for military training..."

"... were pulled out unconscious and one died -- after two lifeguards and 20 swimmers failed to spot them."
... It's not clear if the duo was following an official training program, or if they had devised their own workout, said Lt. Col. Robert Roy, head of Air Force recruiting in New York. 
Either way, the military advises against certain breath-holding exercises or swimming underwater at length to avoid "shallow water blackout," which can lead to drowning.
Very sad!

That reminds me. I wanted to link to this article: "Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning." It begins with an unforgettable anecdote.


chickenlittle said...

This woman must have huge lungs! She held her breath underwater for 2 min 20s!

Curious George said...

The story is sad but shit happens. The link is important. News to me and I'll bet news to most. All parents or those that take care of young children should know

Curious George said...

"chickenlittle said...
This woman must have huge lungs! She held her breath underwater for 2 min 20s!"

She did have huge lungs...wait, we talking about the same thing?

wv: sling. Too easy.

edutcher said...

This is definitely on of those, "Don't try this at home", things. At least without supervision and somebody to act as a safety.

chickenlittle said...

This woman must have huge lungs! She held her breath underwater for 2 min 20s!

Lucy Pinder must be able to do double that. ;)

PS Something similar happened in Boston. I know we're talking urban here, but maybe Bloomie and Menino need to worry less about trans fat and hire a few more lifeguards.

PPS "elite Battlefield Airmen commandos"? I've heard of PJs and CCTs, but that's a new one.

Christopher said...

Perhaps it's just because i was a lifeguard but i thought this was common knowledge.

It's not splashing or screaming it's someone struggling to get their mouth above the waterline (assuming they're still conscious).

The kids I hated the most at the pool were the ones who would see how long they could lay on the bottom of the pool.

MadisonMan said...

You can only push your body so far.

bagoh20 said...

Interesting article. I was a life guard in high school and never knew that stuff. It makes perfect sense. When drowning you only care about trying to get a breath, not waving or yelling, etc. And being physiologically programmed to not kick or raise your arms is scary.


denmotherblog said...

OH. MY. GOD. The Drowning article brought back a terrifying memory from my childhood 40 years ago. I was in an above-ground pool a little deeper than I was (i.e. there was no "shallow end") and I lost my grip on the edge, slipping under water. I distinctly remember that I couldn't yell for help as I bobbed up out of the water, tried to catch my breath, and then slipped back under. EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS ARTICLE! Sorry for the all-caps, but it really rang true for me.

Fred4Pres said...

It only takes a few minutes. This is very sad. I am so sorry for this loss to their families and to our nation.

Martha said...

Ah that explains Caylee Anthony's death.

ndspinelli said...

I've had conversations w/ lifeguards in San Diego. They are Major League w/ many surfers and swimmers along miles of beaches. They are true professional[they're San Diego firefighter/paramedics].

There are rip currents which account for most of the near and actual drownings. For anyone who swims in surf, it would be important to read how to survive a rip current. The key is counterintuitive. You don't fight it..you just let it pull you until it slows..then swim parallel and out of this "ocean river." Even very strong swimmers can't swim across a rip current until it slows.

Finally, it is every parents fundamental duty to make sure they teach their kids how to swim.

timmaguire42 said...

Thanks for the link. I had no idea--and I grew up in a hydrophilic family. None of my sailing or swimming classes ever discussed it. Not even when the subject was water rescue.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

A few years ago I was at the beach with my 5 year old son. I was on the beach, he was in water that was waist deep between the waves and using a kickboard to help him float up over the waves. He got into a rip current and pulled into deeper water. Once it was deep enough that he couldn't put his feet down between wave he was in trouble. Fortunately I was watching him and realized what was happening. Even so I was amazed at how far the current took him in the short time it took me to get to him.

He never yelled for help or showed any sign of struggling. The lifeguard, who was about 10 feet away from me on the beach, didn't notice anything until I was most of the way out to my son.

Two thoughts:

1) You are responsible for your children. Don't expect other people to save them, even lifeguards. Lifeguards have a lot of people to watch. You have just your kids.

2) There's no better feeling than saving your kid's life.

The Drill SGT said...


I suspect it was either PJ (Rescue guys, who are great) or perhaps CC (FAA guy), rather than TACP (call airstrikes guy)

Who sits on a ridge alone outside a hostile city acting as a one-man air traffic controller while at the same time being fully prepared to join the fight if necessary? You do as a Combat Control specialist. Combat Controllers are part of the Air Force's Special Operations team and are FAA-certified air traffic controllers. They operate in remote and sometimes hostile areas helping the Air Force accomplish its mission by directing air traffic and alerting pilots and command of the location of hostile forces on the ground.

Download the Warrior Fact Sheet for more information.

Career Tasks
•Perform precision parachute jumps to penetrate hostile areas
•Be proficient in water operations using both scuba and amphibious techniques
•Learn to be proficient on motorcycles, snowmobiles and skis
•Learn to rappel and fast-rope
•Be an expert with maps and compasses
•Be capable of overland travel in any environment
•Function under the most demanding weather conditions
•Establish assault zones and direct aircraft within those zones

traditionalguy said...

Breathing is so important these days.

Life Saving teaches how to wrestle and control a drowning man and swim back to shore with him.

Drown proofing was a required course at Emory. Why get that educated and die for no reason.

Drown proofing teaches how to stay still and float with the head in the water, and every 20 seconds to pull up with a stroke to get the head above water and breath in. Repeat. It can keep you alive for days.

Panic is the enemy. I have known strong men who panic from fear of drowning so badly that they cannot be taught how to swim.

Ann Althouse said...

"The kids I hated the most at the pool were the ones who would see how long they could lay on the bottom of the pool."

About 2 decades ago I took my 2 sons and a friend of my younger son's to the beach. The friend thought it was amusing to swim underwater (lake water) for a long time and then pop up in some surprising place. It was a horrible experience. It was the last time I went to the beach with a child.

MarkG said...

"The friend thought it was amusing to swim underwater (lake water) for a long time and then pop up in some surprising place."

That's loony!

Maguro said...

I suspect it was either PJ (Rescue guys, who are great) or perhaps CC (FAA guy), rather than TACP (call airstrikes guy)

Yeah...TACPs aren't scuba-qualified so there'd be no reason to do any underwater stuff if that's what you're going in for.

Quite a few TACPs are actually guys who washed out of Pararescue or Combat Control because they couldn't handle the underwater training.

Hoosierman said...

Frank Sinatra used to train holding his breath-so he could hold a note in the municipal pools of Hoboken

NYTNewYorker said...

Professor, I've been on and in the water my entire life and after reading this piece I know more now than I did 5 minutes ago about drowning, thanks for posting it.

Sharon said...

I live in California and raised my kids (30, 27, & 22) in a house with a pool. I took CPR courses when they were born and just took the course again upon the birth of my 1st grandchild. I have never been told the information in that article. However, when my youngest was 7 we were at a pool party at a client's home and my friend and I were standing above the spa in front of our 2 kids. I looked down, saw my son vertical, not-moving, eyes opened. I yelled, "Are you OK?" and immediately jumped in the spa--fully clothed. He was having a contest with my friend's daughter. I had to spend the rest of the party in damp clothes. Upon reading this article, I found out I did the right thing by instinct.

Christy said...

In the week after Bin Laden was taken out, the Military Channel ran a series about the training of Seals. A lot of it was putting them through drills in water and out where they were pushed to their breaking points. One wonders if these young men saw that show and devised their own version.


chickenlittle said...

It was the last time I went to the beach with a child.

About 10 years ago a neighbor across the street explained to me that he paid the down payment of his first house from an insurance settlement. As a kid, he had almost lost an eye playing on private property. His immigrant parents didn't believe in health insurance because it reminded them of protection rackets back in the old country. They did believe in working hard and saving money. His parents sued and won a settlement.

Anyways, my neighbor lost his job but declined COBRA insurance for his kids even though he could afford it. When I heard that I forbade to let his kids play with mine, especially on our property. Fortunately for us they moved on to bigger and better properties and left the 'hood. The experience forever tainted my view of the "poor" and health insurance.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Shallow water blackout is something every kid (and adult) should know about. The breath reflex is triggered NOT by low oxygen in the blood, but by high CO2. Hyperventilation before an underwater swim can easily result in a situation where you are out of O2 but still feel little need to breathe. Continued a little longer, this will result in a blackout, underwater. This is generally not good.
My brother once spent two days in hospital after such an event.

Second: I have rescued two kids who got in "over their heads" in pools. In effect, I now have a reflex whereby I cannot sit by a pool with kids and a lifeguard - I am forced to walk around the edge and keep an eye on the kids. I even have a spiel for my apology to the lifeguards, about my compulsion, and how I have no intent to denigrate their skills. (Every time I've had to give this little speech, the lifeguard's response has been to be actively grateful that I was there, paying attention.)

Shanna said...

Excellent article! I have printed it out for my parents and brother to read (regarding my nephews). Scary stuff.

The cold water part was interesting too, but that is less likely to be an issue.

Robin said...

I linked the article to my facebook to spread the word to all my beach and pool going friends.

Tibore said...

"Christopher said...
Perhaps it's just because i was a lifeguard but i thought this was common knowledge."

Unfortunately, it's not. I even took a lifeguard course back in the 80's (never actually followed through and got certified, though), and I don't recall that being taught back then. So I actually didn't know what the signs were either, although I have to emphasize that all I did was take a single summer-school course; I never actually worked as a lifeguard, so I would never call myself one.

That info about how to tell when someone is drowning is good information to know, however. Now, if I happen to see it when I'm swimming (at least twice a week, for exercise) or out fishing or boating, I know how to recognize it. I would not have been able to do so in the past (*shudders*).