Staying out of troubled waters this holiday weekend

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(WFXR) — You want to make a splash this Memorial Day weekend, but it’s important to do it safely.

WFXR caught up with professional swimmer and three-time Olympic Gold medalist Rowdy Gaines. He’s a spokesperson with Step Into Swim, an initiative to fund swim lessons in underserved communities.

Gaines says toddlers should learn to swim as soon as they can walk.

“Most drownings happen in front of adults,” he said. “Drowning is a silent killer it’s not like the movies where a child will yell and scream. The water envelopes their lungs and they can drown in as little as thirty seconds.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for kids aged one to four, and Gaines says learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%.

National Boat Safety Week: Officials share tips ahead of busy Memorial Day weekend

“Listen, these are staggering statistics obviously but the good news is, it is preventable. Swimming lessons, parents, don’t take your eyes off your child.”

Some folks will skip the neighborhood pool for the lake.

“One of the biggest issues we see on the lake and on the rivers, especially on holiday weekends, is folks not being prepared,” said Sergeant Michael Morris with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

He says everyone out on the lake needs a lifejacket that fits properly.

“Out here on Smith Mountain Lake, you could be in a situation where there’s a lot of wake-creating waves,” he said.

VDWR officials also warn not to drink and drive the boat. You should also let a friend know when you’re headed out and what time you plan to be back.

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