It is perhaps inevitable that a community like ours, which has adopted a boat as its symbol, would have recurring problems with fatal accidents on water.
That doesn't make it any easier to accept such things as the drowning death this past week of Nick Hartfield, a Lakeside High School student swept into the rough waters of the Savannah River's rapids.
In fact, the omnipresence of water in our community - with Clarks Hill Lake, the Savannah River flowing along the county's border, and neighborhood and private pools abounding - makes it far less acceptable that a single person would drown in a swimming mishap.
Yet it's already happened twice this year, with Hartfield's drowning preceded a month ago by the drowning of Jesus Ramirez Gonzalez at Clarks Hill. And it's also the second year in a row that Columbia County schools opened shortly after a student drowned; Chris Smith drowned July 18, 2009, just weeks before he was to attend his senior year at Greenbrier High School.
With water, water everywhere, this community must collectively put a renewed emphasis on water safety. The American Red Cross and the Family Y periodically offer water safety courses, and other organizations should step forward to make such classes more widely available.
None of these matter, however, if parents don't push for them. There have been a dozen drownings in Columbia County in the past five years; nearly every one involved a young man, most were poor swimmers, and none were wearing life vests or using other safety gear. While accidents are going to happen, preparedness makes it less likely.
Our community must make such preparedness a priority. We don't need to lose any more children to such a preventable cause.
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