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Drowning is so quick and quiet that half of the kids that will drown this year will do so within 25 yards of their parents. (AP Photo/File)

Drowning doesn't look like drowning

How do you know when someone is drowning? They don't look like they're drowning.

Drowning is silent. There is no splashing. There is no calling for help. Drowning looks nothing like it's portrayed in the movies and on television.

People who can splash or talk are distressed, and might soon become actively drowning, but they aren't drowning. "When I see that on the movies or TV, it's so fake to me," Bellevue Club aquatics director Melissa Stepp said. "A drowning person is never, not ever, chest-high out of the water."

People who are drowning cannot do any of the things you see in the movies. Their bodies won't let them. Every muscle, every ounce of energy is going to only one thing. "Breathing is your body's priority," Stepp said. "Your body is acting so you can breathe. Nothing else matters, and you don't necessarily have conscious control over your actions."

Drowning is so quick and quiet that half of the kids that will drown this year will do so within 25 yards of their parents, and those parents will have no idea what's happening. "That's why it's really important for parents to stay within arms-reach of their child and be in the water with them," Stepp said.

So what can you do?

What does every child playing in the water do? They make noise. If things suddenly get silent, find out why.

If you're watching your child from a distance, look for wide, glassy eyes and little movement and a head that's just barely above the surface.

You only have 20 to 60 seconds before it's too late.


Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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