Jessa Gamble on Drowning →

March 20, 2015 |

Jessa Gamble shows us what drowning really looks like in the last entry of Last Word On Nothing’s “Debunking Hollywood” series:

This scenario – reinforced by television and movie scenes – has become society’s platonic ideal of drowning, and it held sway even in lifeguard training up until the 1960s. That’s when Frank Pia, Chief Lifeguard on Orchard Beach in the Bronx, realized it didn’t square with the thousands of drownings and near-drownings he’d witnessed in his job. (…)

In his 1971 documentary On Drowning – 17 minutes of actual near-drowning and rescue footage – he reveals the impossibility of any shouting, waving or even kicking in the last 20 to 60 seconds between near-drowning and final submersion. Drowning is a gentle and silent event. It looks like someone treading water lamely, with his head tilted back. Parents, even those beside their kids in the water, might watch it happen and feel no distress, because in young children it looks a little like dog-paddle.