Minnesota has had a tragic beginning to it's 2021 open-water season and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging everyone who's around water to make safety their first priority.

According to the DNR, as of June 16, as many as nine people have been victims of boating fatalities. That preliminary number marks the most fatalities at this point of the year in more than a decade.

In addition, a higher-than-average number of people have drowned at places like beaches and swimming pools.

“There are too many families who won’t be seeing their loved ones again,” said Lt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division. “It’s up to everyone who heads for the water to double-down on safety and prevent what should be a fun experience from turning tragic.”

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The DNR adds that the people who’ve drowned so far this season span the age, gender and swimming ability spectrum. In other words, it can happen to anyone if precautions are not consistently taken.

Here are some great tips to follow to stay safe around the water:

  • Wear a life jacket. All children, and adults should wear a life jacket anytime they’re around the water. Each year even adults who are good swimmers go under the water and never resurface.
  • Avoid alcohol. Its effects are magnified on the water and the consequences can be deadly. About 40 percent of boating fatalities include alcohol.
  • Designate a “water watcher.” This person puts down their cell phone or other distractions and focuses only on watching the water to ensure everyone is safe.
  • Wade feet-first into the water to avoid jumping into an area where the current, depth and other conditions are unknown.
  • Constantly supervise children while they’re in or near the water. Looking away even for a moment is enough time for tragedy to strike. Drowning often doesn’t involve yelling, screaming and waving of the arms. Rather, it often occurs silently.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas.

It only takes one misstep to cause a tragic accident. I can attest to this as last summer while out on a lake near our cabin, I decided to ride our big floating pad from a sand bar area back to a swimming area where the kids could jump off the boat. I didn't have a life jacket on, but figured it was only a short distance, we'd be going slow and my son was watching me from the boat.

Well, he got distracted, the pad got swamped and I was left in the middle of a very deep lake yelling at the boat. He saw me and the boat did work on circling back to me but I got tired very fast swimming towards them and my heart was racing.  I will never do that again without a life jacket, period!

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