The recent drowning death of 9-year-old Anna Van Horn while tubing the Chattahoochee River has brought a lot of publicity to how quickly the river can rise and how fast it can move when water is released upstream. Tubing down the Chattahoochee is absolutely an Atlanta tradition, but I am wondering if parents are reconsidering letting their kids and teens on the river?
“Anna’s drowning death was the first this year that occurred in rising waters during a dam discharge. Last year, two people drowned during the releases. Seventeen have drowned on the river since 2000, but federal officials didn’t know how many of those deaths came during dam discharges.”
“ ‘When those gates open, you don’t stand a chance if you’re out there,” said angler Bob Dejardin, fly-fishing just downstream from the dam one day last week. “It’s really dangerous.” Federal officials said the company that rented Anna and her friends tubes followed rules established by the National Park Service.”
“Among those rules: making sure tubers know about the dam discharges, ensuring customers are wearing proper flotation devices, and not allowing any tubing north of the Ga. 20 bridge two hours before a dam discharge. Anna’s group entered the river just below the bridge, where there’s no requirement to leave the water when the sirens sound.”
I went down the river with friends as a senior in high school. I think my brother went in high school and college. Looking back now I am wondering what my parents were thinking letting us go rafting down a river without them. I definitely didn’t know much about any dangers of the river. You rented a tube and you floated with your friends. I don’t remember anyone warning us about discharging water causing the river to rise and run fast. I can’t even remember if we wore life jackets. I hope we did.
I do remember a bunch a people of people jumping from a high ledge, and I just kept thinking this cannot be safe.
Irun, who is one of regulars, shared a very scary river story last week when were discussing what drowning really looks like. If you missed the story here it is:
“OK, so even if your kid CAN swim that doesn’t mean they’re not at risk of drowning.
So, here’s a recent story.
Last weekend I took my son, who is almost 10 and knows how to swim, tubing on the Hooch. The water was slow moving, deep in places, and 50F.
Within about 10 minutes of getting on our tubes he flips off.
He had a life vest on, one of those orange ones that just go around the neck with a strap around the waist. The belt, however, had a faulty loop where you tighten it and IMMEDIATELY the life vest floated up around his head and it and the strap impeded my son’s ability to move his arms.
He kept trying to get back on the tube but because the water was over his head all he did was flip it over and over. The water was 50F. Very, very quickly, in less than a minute he started to panic.
I was about 10 feet away so I hopped off my tube, swam over, grabbed him and his tube in a rear active assist (I was a trained lifeguard in college), and brought him to the shore. Once there I swapped out his faulty vest for my working one, put him back on his tube, and told him to be careful about falling off again. Then I swam to my tube, swam back to shore, and got back on.
Once I was back on I warned him and the other boys that if they fell off, to remain calm despite the cold, grab their tube by the handle and swim to shore so they could get back on. Because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get to any or all of them in time. Note that I wasn’t the only adult but we were at a ratio of 2 boys:1 adult.
Sure enough, each boy fell of a few times but they remembered my instructions, except for one, who panicked and I had to re-enact my assistance.
The very real scare we had with my son was mostly the result of the faulty vest hindering his movement and the VERY cold water. Even if he’d not had a vest at all I think the cold water would have made it difficult for him to rescue himself once he grew tired after not being able to get back on his tube. The moment he started to panic I could see him start to go into that automatic drowning response and FORGET his knowledge of swimming.
So it’s VERY important you don’t put too much faith in your kid’s ability to swim. I have to say that lifeguard training did a LOT for me with regards to staying calm. I believe I will have my son take a course when he’s old enough.
BTW, the very day after our trip was the day that little girl, close in age to my son, drowned. And she was wearing a vest at some point.
Be very vigilant.”
So I am wondering with all this publicity if parents are taking the risks of the Chattahoochee River more seriously? Would you feel as comfortable going down with your kids or teens after reading so much about the possible quick changes to flow and level? Would you let your teens go just with buddies?
– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania. Follow me on Twitter (ajcMomania) and read what I am reading each day. Great stories on family health, family fun, parenting, fashion, stars, and more. )