Cold water kills – QUICKLY
This past weekend a passenger of the dinner cruise NORTHERN SPIRIT fell into Lake Ontario when he was leaning over the railing. The individual involved in this casualty was a trained lifeguard and expert swimmer. According to press reports, the police estimated that the water was approximately 9o C (48o F). Witnesses were watching him – until they could not see him.
Most people immediately think of hypothermia in cases such as this – but there are dangers that can occur far more quickly than hypothermia.
According to RADM Alan Steinman (USCG Ret) the cold shock response of the human body includes:
- Gasp Reflex
- Difficulty holding your breath
- Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)
Quick response is vital in situations such as this. Dr. Steinman’s summary of cold water risks indicates the following parameters for risks in cold water:
- Cold shock – (0-2 minutes)
- Functional disability (2-30 minutes)
- Hypothermia (greater than 30 minutes)
A more detailed article from CTV NEWS Toronto titled ‘I blinked and he was gone’: Lifeguard missing after falling overboard is at this link.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has announced (see link) they are deploying a team to gather information and assess the situation.