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Take caution while swimming: 10 drownings of kids this year

Antioch IL 6/28/12 Antioch surrounding divers search for body man who reportedly drowned West LoLake Thursday afternoon. An Antioch boreturns

Antioch, IL 6/28/12 Antioch and surrounding divers search for the body of a man who reportedly drowned in West Loon Lake, Thursday afternoon. An Antioch boat returns to shore to swap divers. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 12, 2012 6:26AM

Ten children under 17 have drowned in the Chicago area since June 14, compared to 15 deaths of children and adults during all of last year — a statistic that led officials Tuesday to issue a warning to residents about the risks.

The deaths all occurred in Lake Michigan, except a toddler who drowned in a backyard pool in Joliet on the Fourth of July. Tuesday morning the body of a 15-year-old boy who had been missing in Lake Michigan in Indiana was found at the Ogden Dunes beach. There have been adult drownings this summer, too.

“Unless we quit having these drownings, it would certainly seem to be an increase this year,” said Elizabeth Powell, an emergency department physician, at a press conference at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital.

Officials were at a loss to say why the preventable deaths were up this year, but the recent heat wave has sent more people to the water, and winds also could have played a role.

“It’s been hot,” Powell said. “Lake Michigan is a huge body of water and the combination of the waves and the currents can make a lot of areas quite treacherous.”

Eric Fischer, aquatics manager at the Chicago Park District, said that lifeguard training is continuing with a heightened sense of urgency this summer. He noted “strong wind conditions recently” as a possible factor.

“Even in the strongest cases a swimmer can underestimate the water conditions,” Fischer said.

He warned beachgoers to pay attention to warnings from the public address systems about dangerous swimming conditions, and cited the importance of swimming near a lifeguard and always keeping children at an arm’s distance.

Said Powell, “Supervision is really the key to keeping everyone safe.”

The body of 15-year-old Corey McFry was recovered at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday along the shore of Ogden Dunes on Lake Michigan. The body was about a quarter of a mile from where he was last seen swimming Sunday.

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