Officials Urge Taking Water Safety Classes

Summer hasn't officially kicked off, but many people are already hitting the beaches and swimming pools to cool off. That's why the Beaufort Fire Department is joining forces with other Beaufort County agencies to promote water safety.

Two years ago, 11-year-old Kathy Simmons took swim lessons and water safety at the Beaufort indoor pool like most second and third graders in the area, not knowing one day she'd need them to survive. She enjoys swimming in the pool, but she now stays close to the side after almost nearly drowning two years ago. It all happened when she fell off a pier and into the water at Little Caper's Creek.

"I tried to swim back to the shore, but the tied pushed me back," she said.

Although she was nervous, Kathy didn't panic and floated down the river, using the skills she and her classmates learned at a two-week swimming safety course. "They taught her to be calm and that's the biggest thing that saved her," said firefighter Jimmy Johnson. "She was scared, but she was calm."

Emergency crews in rescue helicopters and boats searched for Kathy for about 50 minutes. They had almost given up hope, when Johnson found her floating down the river.

"I'd already passed her," he told us. "I was going into the sun and when I looked back I saw something that looked like it could be her."

The current carried Kathy more than a mile, and rescuers say they'd hate to see what would have happened if Kathy hadn't remember those life-saving skills.

Beaufort fire marshal Dan Byrne said, "I wouldn't want to think about it. the outcome. Definitely wouldn't be as good as it was."

Here are some tips Byrne to help keep everyone safe in the waters this summer:

*Don't swim without a lifeguard on duty
*Be familiar with the waterways before jumping in
*Always swim with a partner
*Make sure someone knows where you are
*Take advantage of swim lessons at your local pools

Reported by: Jaime Dailey,