Near fatality highlights hidden dangers in season

1st Coast Guard District News
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A rower, whose single-person scull capsized in Southport Channel, was rescued by a good samaritan, April 2, 2014.

The survivor was brought ashore unconscious and suffering from severe hypothermia. The subject was treated by members of the Southport Fire Department, in Southport, Conn., and eventually regained consciousness.

“It has been a long winter and it’s finally starting to get nice outside,” noted Cmdr. Jonathan Theel, chief of Response at Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. “However, this time of year can be deceptively dangerous. Air temperatures are warm, but the water is still very cold. If someone falls into the water right now, their ability to survive is about the same as if they fell in when there was still snow on the ground.”

Despite the air temperature at the time of the incident being 50 degrees, the water temperature was only 36 degrees. Under these conditions, a person in the water will begin to suffer from hypothermia within 72 minutes. However, the onset can occur far more quickly. The subject was reported to have been exposed to water for only fifteen minutes, yet was found in very serious condition upon recovery.

“Survival time in water that cold is based upon many factors, but you don’t have very long,” said Theel. “Given the location of the incident, this person is very lucky to have had assistance nearby.”

The Coast Guard reminds the public that boating safety should never be taken for granted. Often, when conditions seem benign, they can be most dangerous.

“Always wear your lifejacket,” emphasized Theel. “And remember to consider water temperature as well as potential weather conditions when considering what to wear.”

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