OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
In the last 20 years, we doubt a year has gone by without some sort of tragedy on the Oregon and Southwest Washington coasts.
The latest drownings, last Wednesday afternoon at Rockaway Beach, have ripped a Colorado family apart.
Samuel Allen, 17, was body boarding without a wetsuit and struggled to get back to the shore, according to the Coast Guard. His father, Robert Allen, 50, went into the water to assist. His stepmother lost sight of them and called 911.
Two Coast Guard helicopter crews arrived. A rescue swimmer pulled an unresponsive Robert Allen from the water, provided CPR and transferred him to emergency medical technicians on the beach, but he died.
Helicopters and a Coast Guard cutter searched through the night for Samuel Allen, but called off the effort the next morning.
Mother Nature is so unforgiving.
Just because the sun is shining, it does not mean that it’s safe to go out into the ocean. That water is cold, and the risk of potentially fatal hypothermia is real.
Logs, riptides and waves are among the biggest dangers.
We have repeatedly issued warnings about the dangers of logs in the water and on shore. Their weight when tossed by a wave can knock a swimmer unconscious.
The American Red Cross offers safety tips about rip currents that bear repeating.
First up is the admonition is to never swim alone. Few local areas patrolled are by lifeguards. Only the strongest swimmers have any business venturing into our local surf zone, and even they should never do so without a buddy. That ought to be obvious, but too often it isn’t.
If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current, safety experts advise. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. And once you are free, turn and swim toward shore.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is equally vigorous in its warnings, noting that rip currents account for four out of five of ocean rescues performed by lifeguards
NOAA warns about shorebreaks, too. These are ocean conditions that occur when waves break directly on the shore, and a significant cause of spinal injuries.
Small or high waves can be equally as unpredictable and dangerous and typically form when there is a rapid transition from deep to shallow water. Sneaker waves, in which the surf occasionally runs much father inland, are common here. Children should always be kept within reach so they can be plucked out of harm’s way if necessary; the sames goes for older adults who aren’t sure of foot.
Our beaches are among our greatest natural wonders. They can be fun, a terrific source of pleasure and create lasting memories from childhood to adulthood. But they also come with dangers, too. Locals and visitors alike should heed those warnings and work to stay safe.