A Private First Class assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, died in a sports, recreation and physical training mishap 10 July 2021 at 1720 local. The Soldier was at a lake with a group of people, when he began swimming approximately 100-150 meters from shore to retrieve a floatation toy. He was seen flailing his arms before he submerged beneath the surface. Another Soldier dove in to save him but was unable to locate the body. The water in that area contained a large amount of aquatic hydrilla grass, which significantly decreased visibility and formed a swimming hazard. Emergency service personnel were dispatched to the scene at 1730 and began a thorough search, using boats, sonar and divers. The search was halted at 2130 hours due to darkness and complications from the dense vegetation. The search resumed the following morning at 0800. The Soldier’s body was not located until 12 July at 1120. Initial reports indicate the Soldier was not under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance at the time of the drowning.
Since FY16, the Army has lost an average of 12 Soldiers a year to off-duty sports, recreation and physical training mishaps. This tragedy was the fifth fatal off-duty sports, recreation and physical training mishap of FY21.
Before entering or being around the water, keep these things in mind because they could save your life or the life of someone you care about.
Expect the unexpected – Accidents can happen within seconds, so always be prepared for the unexpected. If you jump into water that is colder than 70 degrees, you can inhale water from involuntary gasping, hyperventilation, panic and sometimes vertigo that can cause you to drown.
Know your swimming abilities – Be aware that swimming in natural waters such as a lake, river or pond is different from swimming in a pool, and your swimming ability decreases with age. It is never too late to take swimming lessons and learn to swim well. Several people every year drown while swimming to retrieve boats and toys. Let those go because they are not worth losing your life over.
Choose swimming areas carefully – Murky lake and river water can hide sharp or slippery rocks, uneven or unstable logs, and “strainers” or underwater branches and root systems that can easily catch your feet. These are constantly changing in unpredictable ways.
Alcohol and water are a deadly combination – Alcohol induces an inner ear condition (caloric labyrinthitis) that can cause you to become disoriented when underwater and not realize which way is up. If you jump or fall in the water, you can become disoriented and swim down instead of up to safety, causing you to drown. This can more likely happen if you have been consuming alcohol.