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Our View: Respecting the power of the Fox River

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 11:08 p.m. CDT

Large bodies of water can be dangerous – Kane County residents were reminded of that fact April 19, after a 26-year-old man lost his life while kayaking on the Fox River.

The incident is a tragic one, and by no means is it the only water-related death to occur on the Fox.

Although many residents want to enjoy the river for fishing, boating and other recreational activities, that enjoyment must come with a respect for the power of the water and the environment around it. Seemingly too often, a leisurely day spent relaxing and having fun on the Fox can turn into a dangerous – and even life-threatening – situation.

In the incident April 19, the 26-year-old, Dinesh Sudhakar-Uckoo, drowned after the two-person kayak he was riding in went over the dam near State Street in Geneva. Fortunately, the other passenger in the kayak was rescued and has reportedly been recovering.

Another death occurred near that area in August 2011. During that incident, 57-year-old Randy Suchy drowned after he jumped into the Fox River to save a 12-year-old boy near the Geneva dam.

These events are devastating, and we cannot even begin to imagine the pain the families of the victims must be suffering. Our hearts go out to them.

And as the weather continues to get warmer this year, we remind all visitors to the Fox Valley that caution must be taken when setting out on the Fox River.

The following safety tips are provided by the Illinois Paddling Council via its website, www.illinoispaddling.org/river_safety:

• Don’t paddle alone – join a club – paddle with people who know the river. Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return. 

• Paddle water appropriate to your skills.

• Do not go into [a] fast current unless you are sure you can safely paddle through.

• Learn to control your boat – be able to stop the boat at any time and know how to land on shore.

• Learn to recognize river hazards – strainers (downed trees or branches reaching into the water); dams with hydraulic reversals; bridge piers; barbed wires across rivers.

Additional water safety tips are offered on the American Red Cross website, www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/water-safety:

• Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water, including ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.

• Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.

• Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.

• Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.

• Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.

In the wake of last Saturday’s tragedy, we encourage families to talk about the importance of water safety. Such steps can help save lives.

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