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Swimming skills a lifesaving lesson

Swimming pool at Rockland Lake State park. (July

Swimming pool at Rockland Lake State park. (July 6,2012) Photo Credit: Susan Stava

Tyreef Benston, 26, drowned in a pond in Noyack. He and his girlfriend were in what they thought was shallow water. Neither one of them could swim.

Byron McArthur in East Islip, 21 months old, tumbled off a ladder into an above-ground pool. His mother found him at the bottom, and hard as she tried, she could not revive the toddler.

David Aureliano, 12, Harlie Treanor, 11, and Victoria Gaines, 7, drowned in a 34-foot boat after the July Fourth fireworks. Investigators say the children were trapped in the cabin as the Kandi Won sank in Oyster Bay.

It's summer on Long Island, and the water is taking its toll.

Every one of these cases is different. But in one of them, the lesson is clear: Far too many people today don't know how to swim.

Every summer, we get another rash of drownings on Long Island. Many of the victims are young. Parents aren't paying attention. A careless homeowner leaves a pool gate unlocked. Someone's drunk and acting stupid. It could be any of a thousand things.

Somewhere between one-third and one-half of American adults don't have basic swimming skills, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The University of Memphis found that 54 percent of 12- to-18-year-olds can't do much more than splash in the shallow end. And the lower a family's income, the higher those numbers climb.

The answer seems obvious: Make swimming lessons part of the curriculum at every elementary school.

I can't say whether that would have prevented this past week's tragedies. But I know this much as another summer settles in: A universal-swimming program would save some of next year's victims -- and be a fitting tribute to those we've already lost.


1. Don't mix booze and swimming

2. No diving where the depths aren't known

3. Always swim with a friend

4. Have a life preserver for everyone

5. Stay on the beach until you know how to swim

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THE NEWS IN SONG: Eric Clapton, "Tears in Heaven,"


We're less than three weeks out from the Summer Games, already time to start cheering the home-team Olympians. Syosset's Sue Bird, a 5-9 guard on U.S. women's basketball team, probably has the best shot at bringing gold from London to Long Island. The WNBA All-Star (Seattle Storm) made her hard-court name at Syosset High, Christ the King and UConn before lending her outside shot to the gold-medal U.S. teams in Athens and Beijing. But also keep an eye out for racewalker Maria Michta of Nesconset, boxer Jamel Herring of Coram, freestyle wrestler Brandon Escobar of Sound Beach and sailors Erik Storck of Huntington, Amanda Clark of Shelter Island and Debbie Capozzi of Bayport. And check out the inspiring photo array at Who says champions aren't grown around here?

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