Weekend drowning prompts cold water warnings at Lake Tapps

With more people heading to the water to cool off this week, police and fire departments are alerting swimmers of dangers on lakes and rivers.

With more people heading to the water to cool off this week, police and fire departments are alerting swimmers of dangers on lakes and rivers.

The warning comes in the wake of a drowning Sunday on Lake Tapps.

We often hear about hypothermia when it comes to water safety, but police and fire departments around the lake are talking about cold water incapacitation.

It can impact your body in just 10 minutes.

Yonis Buda swims in Lake Taps throughout the summer.

"It's pretty cold," the 14-year-old said. "Your body normally gets used to it."

But to some bodies it can be a such a shock, East Pierce firefighters call it cold water incapacitation. 

"That can happen in as little as 10 minutes as opposed to hypothermia that can take hours," said Dina Sutherland, spokesperson for East Pierce Fire and Rescue.

EPFR took members of the media out to the swimming area at Allan Yorke Park where Lake Tapps claimed its latest victim.

A 22-year-old man disappeared Sunday swimming out to the orange buoys just 40 yards from shore.

The temperature gauge shows the water at 77 degrees on the surface. But the waters of the glacier fed lake are in the mid-50s just a few feet down.

"The victims we see the most are male between 14 to 24," said Sutherland. "Highly athletic and most know how to swim. The cold water makes their arms and legs not move as well, and they can't swim as well."

"Hard to tell a 20, 21, 22-year-old man, 'Hey you want to put a lifejacket on?' A lot of times they don't," said Bonney Lake Police Officer Daron Wolschleger.

Wolschleger said the effort to try to educate the public ramped up after they lost three swimmers the summer of 2012. One of them was Quentin Boggan, a Bonney Lake High School student. The triple drowning prompted calls for a water temperature gauge that visitors can see.

But the cost ran too deep.

"It was about $15,000 for a system," said Sutherland. "And none of our agencies alone could handle that expense. We're trying to set aside money. I think it's time to resurrect that project again."

The police and fire departments go around to local schools to teach them about water safety, reaching 7,000 kids since 2012.

But a recent survey showed that many of the visitors to Lake Tapps aren't locals.

© 2017 KING-TV


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