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July 21, 2013

NH sees increase in drownings

Heavy rains, swift water to blame in some cases

There’s trouble around the water this summer in New Hampshire.

State officials last week called a press conference to highlight water safety following 11 drownings. That’s up from eight last year at this time.

One involved the death of a Mattapan teenager who was pulled from Country Pond in Newton over the July 4 weekend.

A diver also was missing Friday off Portsmouth near the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, which connects Maine and New Hampshire. What started as a search for a diver who did not surface while checking lobster traps was being called a recovery mission Friday afternoon.

But it’s not just an issue on lakes and ponds.

In Windham last week, a landscaper helped revive a toddler who had fallen into a pool.

“We are seeing a spike right now,” Salem fire marshal Jeff Emanuelson said.

He couldn’t recall a similar summer in his 26 years in the fire service.

“It does seem to be an anomaly,” Emanuelson said.

New Hampshire Marine Patrol Capt. Tim Dunleavy said what’s unique this year is nine drownings in June and July, up from four a year ago in those months.

The state typically sees more drownings when weather is cold and people become submerged and suffer from hypothermia, he said.

Officials see a combination of factors contributing to what they’ve described as an alarming increase in drownings.

One is the summer’s weather, alternating hot, muggy days with torrential downpours that have swelled rivers, lakes and streams.

“The majority of those we are seeing are folks drawn to the water, swollen rivers and streams, with extreme currents,” Dunleavy said.

Emanuelson cautions people about the flash flooding danger.

“Every day, we seem to have a severe thunderstorm watch or warning coupled with a flash flood warning,” he said.

That adds up to danger people need to be mindful of, Emanuelson said.

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