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Efforts to prevent drownings among Wisconsin's youth

Bradford beach swim family
Posted at 4:56 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 19:19:49-04

MILWAUKEE — Every day in America, ten people die from drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is a statistic one Milwaukee man nearly experienced firsthand. It is why he says water safety is so important.

Carlos Manriquez came to Milwaukee as a kid, and even though he enjoyed the water, he never learned the basics of staying safe in it.

"I am originally from Mexico. When I moved here, I didn't know how to swim,” said Manriquez.

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That didn’t stop him from going into Lake Michigan with some friends when he was 16.

“We just jumped in and we thought 'oh it will be fine.' And we realized the lake is a whole different entity,” said Manriquez.

He nearly died. After that, Manriquez signed up for swim classes. At age 16, he learned to swim. Today, he has both his daughters in swim classes so they can learn as well.

“Swimming specifically, in my opinion, in minority communities, is not something that is promoted. It is not something that is very accessible,” said Manriquez.

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Carlos Manriquez and his daughters run on the sand at Bradford Beach in Milwaukee.

That is true according to the USA Swimming Foundation. It finds 64 percent of Black children and 45 percent of Hispanic children have little to no swimming skills. On top of that, a CDC study finds Black children die from drowning at a rate 5.5 times higher than white children.

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The YMCA of Greater Waukesha County director of aquatics, Sam Seidel, says drowning can happen quickly and quietly.

“Typically drowning is not like what you see in Hollywood or the movies. It is a very quiet event. Often times someone is not going to be raising their hands or arms to call for help, because they are focused on keeping their face above the water,” said Seidel.

He says if your child needs to use a life jacket or floatation device to swim, make sure you use one that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved. But that should never be a substitute for an adult watching a child in the water.

"Adult supervision, when kids are in the water, is the number one most important thing we can do to help protect the children in our community,” said Seidel.

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