JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This summer has been one of the most tragic on northeast Florida waterways in recent years.
There have been 13 drownings or apparent drownings in the area in three months. They've happened anywhere from the ocean, lakes, rivers, creeks, pools and a water-filled ditch.
The people who died range in age from 8 months to 64 years old.
"I think the thing that strikes me the most with it is the wide range of different ages, different swimming abilities, different instances in which it happened," said Casey Del Prete, general manager of Swimming Safari Swim School. "And it really kind of brings to light that everyone's at risk when they're in the water, and they always need to be aware of some of the risks that may happen in swimming, even if they're a really strong, lifelong swimmer."
On Wednesday, a 39-year-old man drowned while canoeing in Cowpen Lake in Putnam County. On Tuesday, a 64-year-old man was found dead, partially clothed, in the ocean off Fernandina Beach.
On Monday, also in Nassau County, a 9-year-old girl died in a swimming pool. On Aug. 24, an 8-month-old baby drowned in an Oceanway swimming pool.
On Aug. 16, a 53-year-old man drowned in a boating accident on Rodman Lake in Putnam County. A 9-year-old autistic boy drowned in a pond in Live Oak on Aug. 13.
On Aug. 7, a 1-year-old boy drowned in a pool in the Hastings area. The day before that, witnesses tried to rescue a 19-year-old man drowning while swimming across Black Creek.
On Aug. 5, a 20-year-old man died after he was pulled from a rip current at Mickler's Landing in St. Johns County.
On July 26, a 22-year-old man drowned after he drove a golf cart into a water-filled ditch in Fleming Island. Also in Clay County, on June 14, an 18-year-old drowned in the St. Johns River in Green Cove Springs. The day before, a 59-year-old man drowned in a different boating accident on Rodman Lake.
And on June 10, a 29-year-old man drowned at Little Talbot Island.
Ten years ago, Rachel Pennewell lost her son in a pool.
"They kept Tyler alive long enough for us to kiss him and to hold him and to touch him while he was warm," Pennewell said. "To be able to hug your child one last time and to kiss one last time is priceless."
Pennewell stresses the importance of parents taking extra precautions around the water.
Swimming Safari Swim School in Jacksonville offers lessons year-round to people of all ages.
Del Prete said kids are most at risk of drowning in the fall and winter in Florida because it's not on parents' minds as much.
"Being in Florida, with water being always around, it's just so important that you do learn how to swim," Del Prete said. "It unlocks so many activities for you and really just kind of understanding if you're a non-swimmer, some steps you can take to become a swimmer, so that way you have access to the water and can be safe in Florida."
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