Recent drownings raise concerns about water safety

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Six drownings in the Chicago area in just one week have raised concerns about water safety in the city and suburbs.

In Bridgeview, the pool is closed for several days while police and park district officials investigate the circumstances that led to the drowning of six-year-old Michal Duda Tuesday afternoon. He was there as part of a summer camp program with Justice Park District when he was pulled from the shallow end of the pool, unresponsive. He died a day later. Several Chicago-area families are dealing with similar tragedies.

Duda's death was ruled as accidental, and while the circumstances of their deaths vary, six young people have all drowned in the last week. According to doctors, a swimmer can get into trouble quickly even in the shallow end.

"It can happen extraordinarily quickly," said Dr. Rani Ganesan of Rush University Medical Center. "So the faster you can recognize it, the faster you can help with CPR and the better off they can be."

Lifeguards were on hand at the pool in Bridgeview, and witnesses say they responded quickly, but they were unable to revive the Duda. Chicago hires about 1,000 lifeguards every summer to watch swimmers in the city's 16 beaches and more than 100 pools. None of the recent drowning victims were in a city beach or pool. The head of the city's swim facilities says it's a big job to keep all the swimmers safe.

"Sometimes the crowds are alarming," said Eric Fischer of the Chicago Park District. "We have hundreds of thousands of people there and we have 40 people watching them."

Though it may sound obvious, Fischer says learning to swim is the best protection against drowning. Many victims find themselves in trouble and are unable to get themselves out of it because they are poor swimmers. But even those who can swim should follow other safety guidelines.

"You want to have a buddy system," he advised, "always swim in front of lifeguards, don't push your limits."

The Chicago Park District offers free swimming lessons and will take part on Friday, along with other international cities, in a world record attempt for the most people taking swimming lessons at once. That lesson is free and there all still spots available.
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