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Drowning victim identified, officials urge water safety

U.S. Coast Guard officials suggest downloading the app to make a float plan before hitting the water (WNWO).
U.S. Coast Guard officials suggest downloading the app to make a float plan before hitting the water (WNWO).
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WNWO) -- Police have identified a drowning victim as 65-year-old Donald Auxter from Toledo.

Crews were dispatched around 3:00 p.m. Sunday to Gem Beach on Catawba Island on a possible drowning. After an approximately 90-minute search, divers recovered the victim. After an exhaustive resuscitation effort, he later died.

This is the 12th person to drown in Lake Erie so far this year.

U.S. Coast Guard officials are stressing the importance of water safety in light of the multiple incidents.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Harker with Coast Guard Station Toledo said that the water current is abnormally high this year, creating more hazards and risks with a strong undertow.

"The undertow is just current under the water that you're not always able to see that, if you're not always able to see that you cant make that determination if that would possibly make your situation or scenario safe or unsafe," said Harker.

Harker said that uncertainty is why coast guard officials always suggest wearing a life jacket, so you can float back up if the current pulls you under.

If you see someone struggling, Harker suggests staying on the scene, contacting the coast guard or 9-1-1 and making sure you stay safe as well, by throwing a flotation device, or making sure you have a life jacket on before trying to help them.

"People panic, when they panic, they grab your neck, they grab your waist, legs, arms. You're not going to be able to swim especially if they grab you. Now one victim or one hazard becomes two and you can be just as likely an additional drowning victim," said Harker.

Another tool is right in your pocket -- the U.S. Coast Guard app.

The app allows you to save a float plan with your vessel and contact information and provide your precise location so search and rescue personnel can find you as quickly as possible.

"If anything were to go estranged say I'm not back by a certain time that I tell them then they can say oh somethings not right and they can contact the proper authorities to give them all this information from this float plan to give us a very good idea of possibly where we could be," said Harker.

Statistics show that 52 people have drowned in all of the Great Lakes this year and over half of those were in Lake Michigan, putting that lake 80 percent higher than this time last year.

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