Tulsa Swim Instructor Offers Tips After Fatal Thin Ice Accidents

Saturday, December 14th 2013, 8:58 pm
By: News On 6

Two children died this month after falling through the ice in Green Country. Water safety experts say in most cases, these kind of deaths can be prevented.

Miller Swim School in Tulsa says there are certain steps you can take to help save a life when you or someone you know goes through the ice. And while the school's focus is teaching people how to swim, these tips go well beyond that.

It's a tragedy that seems to know no age. In Claremore, a 15-year-old boy died after falling though the middle of an icy pond. Just a few days earlier in Tulsa, a 6 year old also died while playing on a frozen creek off Riverside.

In the Tulsa case, the boy's 12-year-old brother attempted to save him but in the process had to be taken to hospital himself. Instructors at Miller Swim School say even though it's human nature to want to go in after someone when they go through the ice, they say jumping in is only going to make matters worse.

"You're going to end up with two incidences more than likely," said swimming instructor Gina Miller Kinnison.

10/12/2013 Related Story: Police Release Name Of Tulsa 6 Year Old Who Died After Falling Through Ice

Kinnison tells students that in these frigid conditions, muscles freeze up, thinking slows down, and hypothermia sets in quickly.

"Reach, throw, but never go - so you need to reach first for that person, even if it's on ice, lay down on your stomach," said Kinnison.

Lying down evenly distributes your weight. Kinnison says you can also throw out a makeshift floatation device like a football.

"We panic in a situation like that, and the main thing is to stay calm," she said.

Experts say if the ice is less than two inches thick, stay off. At three inches it will hold a single person and at four inches, the frozen water will hold a couple. Kinnison says if you're the one that falls in, spread your arms out to keep yourself above the ice.   

And even though your wet winter clothes can drag you down, they can also save your life.

"You can use your clothes and your shirt to blow a little air into, and it will actually provide floatation."

Kinnison teaches both students and their parents the "ABC's" of winter safety to avoid the situation all together. A - Adult Supervision. B - Barriers to block the water, like fences. And C – Classes, not just swimming, but also CPR.     

"What's sad is we wait until a tragic incident happens before we get help."

Miller says if you do pull someone form the water, get their clothes off, and get them into a shelter out of the wind.

Learn more the Miller Swim School.