Southwest Missouri sees staggering rise in number of drownings this year

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TANEY COUNTY, Mo. — Missouri State Water Patrol Troop D reported 16 deaths caused by drownings in their region of 18 counties for 2021.

Last year, the water patrol only encountered seven. Western Taney County Fire Protection District Chief Chris Berndt and his team have assisted local water patrol in the tri-lakes area.

“We have experienced a big variety of drownings this year,” said Chief Berndt. “I mean from people just driving their car into the lake because they missed a turn-off in the middle of the night just drive into the lake to people like we had just the other day.

“They were swimming in the lake, in a pretty deep part of the lake, and had a medical emergency, and somebody else jumped in to help them. The person who jumped in couldn’t swim and ended up drowning.”

In just one week, from August 6th to August 12th, Missouri had five victims die in drownings. In 2020, there were 51 drownings reported across the state. The state total for this year is already at 43.

“And by the time they call, and we get dispatched and respond, there is quite a time delay,” said Chief Berndt. “And so, unfortunately, normally, there is no good ending to that.”

For parents like Tina Tang visiting Table Rock Lake with her family from St. Louis, the safety of her children is of the utmost importance.

“Whether it’s a bathtub or an inside swimming pool or anything, we never leave our children alone,” said Tang.

Even though it was the first time in Branson for the family, and the first time the kids have been swimming in a lake, Tang was prepared with life jackets.

Chief Berndt wants to remind everyone to practice water safety like Tang and her family before the congested Labor Day Weekend begins.

“The number one thing people can do is wear a life jacket, and I know you want to get your suntan. You want to play. You don’t want a life jacket, but it’s really the only piece of equipment you have for defense,” said Chief Berndt.

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