Swimmer’s fast action undoubtedly saved life at Black Rocks

With Labor Day now behind us and the kids back at school, most of us have said our goodbyes to summer.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the summer swimming season is over, and whenever someone is in or near the water, safety must be a priority.

We’ve used this space many times in the past to remind our readers of the dangers that surround Lake Superior and other bodies of water.

We’ve consistently tried to highlight safety measures and precautions people can and should take before venturing out into the water. Hopefully our efforts have not been made in vain, and that we’ve reached someone who thought twice about risking their lives or endangering the lives of others.

But nonetheless, sometimes scary things still happen.

On Thursday, we reported a story of an incident that occurred the previous Monday at Black Rocks in Marquette. Thankfully, a true tragedy was avoided when a bystander noticed an inexperienced swimmer was drowning and pulling a friend down with him, as well.

Longtime certified lifeguard Shawn Robinson-Sobczak was in the right spot at the right time when she went with her daughter to Black Rocks on Monday.

There were others jumping into chilly Lake Superior from the rocky ledge at Presque Isle, and she first noticed something was wrong when one of the jumpers didn’t resurface as quickly as she expected.

As it turned out, the person didn’t know how to swim very well. Robinson-Sobczak said the person panicked and, in the process, grabbed on to his friend. They were both going under, she said, so the lifeguard jumped in the lake and went into action.

Following her training, Robinson-Sobczak told the swimmer to relax, which made it easier for her to help. The rest, she told us, was a blur, but everyone made it safely to shore.

We’ve seen what are reportedly photos of the incident, and Black Rocks was clearly a popular spot that day. Unfortunately, by looking at the pictures, it would appear that few onlookers did anything to help the distressed swimmer. But it may not have been because they were unwilling. It might have actually been due to the fact that few people fully understand what a drowning situation looks like.

The Red Cross says an active drowning victim may be vertical in the water but unable to move forward or tread water. That person might try to press down with their arms at their side in an instinctive attempt to keep the head above water. A passive drowning victim is typically motionless and floating face down on the bottom or near the surface of the water.

That chilling image is far from the flailing arms and splashing water many of us have seen in movies or on TV, though that could still certainly be the actions of a swimmer in distress.

Educating ourselves on the signs of a drowning can go a long way in potentially saving someone’s life down the road, and following the safety measures and protocols laid out by agencies like the Red Cross, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard and others can help keep us all safe.

Robinson-Sobczak said that the inexperienced swimmer was a college student from the Lower Peninsula who had “never touched Lake Superior before, so he had no idea about the cold.”

Sure it’s chilly water, but as we’ve said before, there is a personal responsibility each of us has to see that safety is a priority.

If you can’t swim, try wading in Lake Superior before jumping in over your head.