Did you know that it only takes a couple of minutes for someone to drown?  I have always had a fear of water, never even wanting to put my head under it because I didn't like the feel of holding my breath with the water pushing down on top of me.  I'm that person who takes every precaution around water because of this fear.  We had a locked fence installed around our pool so the grandchildren cannot get outside around it, we also installed an additional lock high on the door leading outside so the grandchildren cannot open the door, I'm the one who insists on life jackets for everyone when go boating.  And bath time with the grands?  I never leave them unattended.  And did I mention that I can actually swim?  I can, however, I lack confidence in myself as a swimmer because of this fear of water that I have had since childhood.  I've heard stories over the years of people who panic in the water and drown.  I never understood why they couldn't at least float on their backs until someone could save them.  I've played these scenarios out in my mind for years.  But I have never watched someone drown.  Until this past weekend.

Hubby and I were to go down south on the coast where he fishes quite a bit.  I was going along just for the ride because he was taking some other people down for a tournament.  I was looking forward to getting out town for a couple of days and enjoying the nice cooler weather that had blown in.  Unfortunately,  I came down with an awful gastro bug on Thursday evening and was running fever.  Being the person who doesn't want to ruin things for everybody else, I decided to take some high powered medication for nausea along with Tylenol and go anyway.

Needless to say, Friday started out a little rough for me but I napped and rested along the two hour drive and when we arrived at a friend's camp to get some bait, I got out to snap a few photos...

        Hubby went out to the docks behind the camp to try to catch some bait for the fishing trip.
                                        It was here that I learned what "casting a net" meant.
                                                This Louisiana marshland is so lovely.

It was when we moved to the other dock, the one on the ship channel, where this terrible drowning tragedy occurred.  We had gotten our bait and were about to gather up our things to head out when suddenly we heard a noise.  Now it was very windy that day and the current was pretty bad.  I glanced over at my husband, who was on the opposite end of the dock, and noticed that he was attempting to lower our friend's boat.  I turned and that's when I noticed a man who had fallen out of his boat into the water and his boat was running wide open in circles around him.

What happened in the next couple of minutes seemed like a lifetime.  I kept my eye on the man, who was fighting the water, yelling for help and trying to avoid getting hit by the motor of his boat.  To me, it appeared as though the boat was chasing him; he could not get away from it.  He was like a magnet being drawn toward it.  The boat was on a lift and moving down very slowly and I noticed that my husband had called both 911 and the coast guard.  I kept watching and praying that the boat would move away from the man; I felt certain that if it did he could float there until we made it to him.  Just before the boat reached the water the man went down and didn't come back up.  I kept looking, thinking his head would bob back up like it had done before but it didn't.  His boat continued in circles down the waterway.

Once the boat got down, my husband went out to see if he could locate the man but could not.  The sheriff showed up first and we both had to give statements to them.  We were, of course, still in shock at what had happened.  By this time, the boat had been stopped so they could find out the identity of the victim from the registration papers.  It was with very heavy hearts that we headed out to meet our friends about 45 minutes away.  It didn't seem right to leave without the recovery of the body.  Someone's son, husband and father would not be coming home that night.

If my fear and respect of water was serious before, it was extreme now.  How could we just get in a boat and fish the next day?  But I knew that was what we had to do.  We awoke before daylight and headed to the dock, where we immediately saw the sheriff's dive team setting out to attempt to locate the body.  As I sat in the boat bundled up on that cool morning, I thought that man had done the same thing the day before.  He thought it was just another ordinary day where he would bring some shrimp or fish home to share with his family.  It didn't happen.

Mid-morning, we got a call asking if we could come back to the dock to give statements to the wildlife and fisheries department.  When we started getting close, an official boat stopped us because the ship channel in that area had been closed off.  When they found out who we were, they escorted us back to the dock.  We gave written statements once again and then had to guide the diver's boat to where we last saw the man.  It was at this point that we found out a little more about him.  He was alone in his boat, heading out to get some shrimp.  He was a man who lived and worked on the water.  He did not have a life jacket on, although several were found in his boat, and we were informed he could not swim.  We have no idea how he ended up in the water but the fact that he could not swim changed everything.  I now knew that he was definitely in a panic, fighting the water and trying to avoid getting cut up by the motor on his boat.  What a horrible feeling that must have been.  He saw us on the dock, yelled for help and we desperately attempted to get to him.  We were told by the officials that once a person consumes a certain amount of water, the body automatically sinks.  And apparently does not move far from that point once that happens.  So we told the divers where to look and waited for them to call us that day with news that they had found the body.  What we heard that night was that they had to wait for the tide to change because it was too dangerous for the divers to go into the water at that time.

I checked the Internet each day, wondering if the body had been recovered yet.  Because what a terrible thing to think of him being under the very water that took his life.  I knew the family had to be distraught and needed for his body to be recovered.  It was yesterday that we found out that Monday the body had finally been recovered.  It was closure.

I'm not sure why I'm telling you this.  Perhaps I just needed to write it all down because that helps me process things in my own mind.  Or perhaps I want to implore everyone out there to take precautions when out on the water:  First, whether you are a swimmer or not WEAR A LIFE JACKET.  Second, take that extra second to attach a KILL SWITCH to your wrist so you can shut the motor off if you fall into the water.  And lastly, RESPECT THE WATER.  It is nature and we all know (because we have a least heard) that nature has its way.

I have played this thing over and over in my mind with a thousand "what ifs" and it still turns out the same way:  There are some things in life where there are no "Do Overs".  This is one of them.  And it serves to remind us that life is very fragile.  We need to spend each day as though it could be our last one; with no regrets.

                                              LIVE LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW.
                                              LOVE LIKE THERE ARE NO BOUNDS.
                                              LAUGH HARD AND OFTEN.

1 comment

  1. Such a sad real life story, it must have been quite a horrible experience.