Published in the August 9 – August 22, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life

Image result for water safety lake AndersonWe’re blessed here in South Valley to have a number of county reservoirs, ponds, and creeks to enjoy outdoor recreation opportunities. We also have a responsibility when out on these water wonders of nature to take steps to ensure our safety as well as the safety of children who might not understand the dangers inherent in large bodies of water as well as fast-moving streams. This is especially so after the lakes and creeks have plenty of water from the heavy rains South Valley received this winter and spring.

We’ve had two recent incidents where people died while enjoying a day out by the water. On May 30, a 31-year-old Morgan Hill woman, Briana Kelly, died after falling from the Anderson Lake bridge where East Dunne Avenue spans the reservoir.
Kelly had been standing on the bridge while a male companion took video footage from the shore. She either fell or jumped from the bridge, hitting her head on the span as she fell, CalFire officials reported. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Dive Team found her body about two hours after they received report of the fall. Attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.

Another tragedy occurred Sunday, July 16, when eight children and four adults played in a Coyote Creek percolation pond at the end of Ogier Avenue north of Morgan Hill. Several of the children were swept up by the powerful current and swiftly carried to a deep end of the pond. Saul Garcia, a 35-year-old San Jose man, jumped into the water and saved his son and the other children.

One child was about the age of 4 or 5 and Garcia handed the child to another adult. Unfortunately, Garcia went under and did not come up. Garcia’s body was later found by a deputy in about 15 feet of water 30 yards from the shore. A GoFundMe page was set up to collect donations to pay for his funeral.

Anytime you are spending some recreation time in and around water, your safety is your responsibility. And this is especially true if you have children with you at a creek, lake or at the ocean. Many times, people are unaware of the danger of water. The U.S. government gives advice on water safety on its website. They include:

• Check river and stream conditions before going for outdoor recreation. This information can often be found at visitor centers and from weather alerts.

• Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.

• Keep an eye on children, even if they are far from the water. They might quickly enter the water and get in trouble when your attention is distracted.

• If you are crossing a stream, unbuckle your backpack’s waist strap so you can shed it if you fall. This will prevent your being pulled under by the pack’s weight.

• If you happen to fall into a swift stream, do not try to stand up. The force of the water will push you over and possibly hold you under. Most drownings happen when a person’s leg or ankle gets caught in an underwater rock ledge, between boulders or snagged in tree limbs.

• If you’re in the water, lay on your back with your feet pointing downstream and toes pointed up toward the surface. Look downstream. Be prepared to fend off rocks with your feet.

• Choose swimming areas carefully.

• Learn to swim and make sure your children also learn to swim.

• Do not dive into the water such as jumping from cliffs or bridges. The water might be shallow. Or you might hit submerged rocks, trees or other hazards under the surface of the water.

• Also, learn CPR. The time that it takes for rescuers to reach you in a remote location might be many minutes, and your CRP skills can help save an individual’s life while you are waiting for emergency services to arrive.

We here in the South Valley region have many beautiful lakes and reservoirs to enjoy during the summer season and all year.
Besides Anderson and the Coyote Creek, we have Coyote Lake, Chesbro Reservoir, Uvas Reservoir and many ponds and creeks in Henry Coe State Park. Enjoy your summer water activities, but be safe doing it — and be prepared in case you or your family face a life-risking emergency.