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Update: 16-year-old dies after 'swimming accident' in lake

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Update: A 16-year-old died in a "swimming accident" on Sisseton Lake in Fairmont Wednesday, the Martin County Sheriff's Office said.

The exact circumstances aren't detailed, but the sheriff's office says the body of Chasen Lee Degrote was recovered from the lake around 2:30 p.m. He'd disappeared about 90 minutes earlier after swimming with friends.

A cause of death hasn't been determined, but it's the fifth death in the water over a five-day period for Minnesota.

The original story is below.

A three-day stretch in which four people drowned, and at least two others nearly died in the water, is not normal.

"This is unique that we had so many in such a short time," Stan Linnell with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources told BringMeTheNews.

Here's what has been reported since Saturday:

  • July 30 – a 36-year-old woman drowns in Lake Minnetonka.
  • July 31 – a 7-year-old girl drowns in East Bush Lake.
  • July 31 – an adult male, who officials say was intoxicated, drowns in Menahga City Beach.
  • Aug. 1 – the body of a 60-year-old male is recovered from Gilmore Creek, an apparent drowning.

And then there are the two kids, not even 5 years old, who nearly drowned but are expected to be OK.

In addition, an adult woman died of natural causes while at Long Lake over the weekend, but it was ruled not a drowning.

Linnell called the number of drownings in a single weekend "very tragic and rare."

Why the sudden spike? Linnell said they don't have any indications other than hot temperatures and warmer water means more people tend to get out.

Drownings the highest in 5 years

Through July of this year there had been a total of 35 reported drownings in Minnesota – that's compared to 31 at the same time last year.

It's the highest year-to-date total since 2011, according to figures given to BringMeTheNews by the DNR.

In all of 2015, there were 53 boating fatalities or non-boating drownings. So for 2016, we're about two-thirds of the way there with still five months to go.

How to be safe

Drownings are often silent, as the DNR and many others have pointed out, and can happen in less than a minute.

"Drowning is not typically the wild waving of hands and screaming that you might see on TV," Linnell said. "It's usually very quiet. Someone struggling will usually have their head tilted back, be gasping for air, and maybe just kind of bobbing up and down in the water, and can be very fast."

So how do you be as safe as possible?

One, if there are kids swimming, always have an adult assigned to watch the children. Even if there is a lifeguard, Linnell called that adult's watchful eye "critical."

Also, life jackets. Children who aren't good swimmers should wear one – and even adults who are good swimmers should put one on if they're tired and want to go for a swim, or if conditions aren't great, Linnell said.

That includes "at night, during storms or high winds, on a river with strong currents, when the water is cold, if you are older with reduced physical endurance or if you have been drinking," he adds.

If you're out on a boat, know that Minnesota law requires a “readily accessible and wearable life jacket” for each person on board, and children under 10 are required to wear one. Boats 16 feet or longer also need a throwable flotation device on board.

Linnell said an average of 10 lives per year in Minnesota could be saved by people wearing life jackets while boating.

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