Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
- Head low in the water, mouth at water level
- Head tilted back with mouth open
- Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
- Eyes closed
- Hair over forehead or eyes
- Not using legs — vertical
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
- Trying to roll over on the back
- Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK — don't be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don't look like they're drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, "Are you all right?" If they can answer at all — they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents — children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.
This article is reprinted from Mario Vittone's blog: http://bit.ly/bagWXo.
Vittone recently retired from the Coast Guard. He's a trained rescue swimmer and boat captain who lives with his family in coastal Virginia.