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Lifeguards manned the Spencer Aquatic Center in northwest Iowa on Wednesday. And when a 6-year-old boy went under, he was spotted immediately and pulled from the water, unresponsive.
CPR was performed and he was rushed to the local hospital, then flown to Sioux Falls, S.D. But on Sunday, Michael Rohan died from drowning, said Spencer Police Chief Mark Lawson.
“There's not enough words to describe the sick feeling, the helpless feeling that everybody's got,” he said. “Everything should have gone right, but it didn't.”
Michael was one of at least three people to die Sunday from likely Iowa drownings, and those follow a month in which at least three people died in similar incidents in the Omaha area.
Said Lawson: “This month has not been good for water safety.”
A 26-year-old Estherville woman died early Sunday morning in East Lake Okoboji, 18 miles or so north of Spencer.
According to the Dickinson County Sheriff's Office, Jennifer Johnson had been swimming next to a boat with at least one other person, about 200 yards from shore, when she disappeared.
“Any time there is no life jacket involved, it is an issue,” said Sheriff Greg Baloun. “That's what I can see as a preventive measure.”
Officials suspect a drowning, but the investigation continues. Johnson's would be the second drowning death this year in the Iowa Great Lakes, following none last year and one in 2010, Baloun said.
Later Sunday in west-central Iowa, a 54-year-old man drowned trying to retrieve his hat from the water at Lake Panorama.
The Guthrie County Sheriff's Office said the man, Barry Blanchfield of Churdan, Iowa, jumped from a boat to get the hat and then went under. He was found and pulled from the lake, but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
The Omaha-area incidents from recent weeks include the death of an 11-year-old Omaha boy, Isaiah T. Griffin, at Lake Manawa in Council Bluffs.
Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said swimmers should take special care in lakes and rivers, where currents and waves can be unpredictable.
“Even the best of swimmers can come up against conditions that could put them in trouble, ” he said.
Iowa recorded 32 drownings in 2008, 30 in 2009 and 48 in 2010, according to Iowa Department of Public Health figures.
Nebraska, with roughly 60 percent of Iowa's population, listed 16 drownings in 2008, nine in 2009 and 22 in 2010, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Final numbers for 2011 for Nebraska had not been tallied, though preliminary statistics showed 13 deaths. Iowa numbers were not available.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.
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Water safety tips
>> Designate a responsible adult to watch young children swimming or playing in or around water.
>> Do not be distracted by reading, playing cards, gabbing on the phone or other activities when you are supposed to be responsible for children, even with lifeguards present.
>> Always swim with a buddy and try to swim near lifeguards when possible.
>> Wear life jackets. Don't rely on air-filled or foam toys such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes.
>> Don't drink alcoholic beverages before or during swimming, boating or water skiing.
>> For a more complete list, click here.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention