SAND HOLLOW STATE PARK — A man attempting to rescue a distressed swimmer battling crosswinds and fatigue at Sand Hollow Reservoir needed rescuing himself when he fell victim to the same dangerous conditions at the lake Friday afternoon.
Just after 5 p.m. rescuers were alerted to a swimmer in trouble as a man in his 20s became overly tired while swimming back to shore, Sand Hollow Complex Park manager Laura Melling said.
A bystander on the bank observed the man who appeared to be in trouble, and after telling personnel in the Dive Shack of the emergency he jumped in to try and help the swimmer. At the same time, emergency rescue crews were being dispatched to the lake, along with Hurricane Valley Fire and Rescue.
Meanwhile, the man reached the swimmer, grabbed onto him and began trying to swim back to shore. A strong headwind was working against the pair and the second man became exhausted and was now in danger himself.
Melling said rescue crews with Sand Hollow State Park launched a boat and quickly reached the men, which allowed the second man to let go of the man he was helping and swim to shore where he was met by emergency personnel. He was placed on a backboard, stabilized and given oxygen.
Rescue crews retrieved the first swimmer, who was slipping in and out of consciousness, and brought him back to shore where he also was stabilized and given oxygen. Both men were then transported by ambulance as a precaution to Dixie Regional Medical Center.
Melling said several factors come into play when swimmers find themselves in danger. A significant factor involves wind, which was blowing from west to east at the time of the incident. The first swimmer made it out to an island just fine, she said. However, as he began his return swim the wind was blowing in his direction, making it difficult to make progress, which led to his exhaustion and distress.
Swimmers at Sand Hollow should take note of the much higher water levels this year, which means the perceived distance between the shore and island can be deceiving, Melling said.
“That island is now twice as far out this year because the water level is so high, which increases the distance they have to swim,” she said.
The heat also plays a role in fatigue, which is dangerous when a swimmer is far from shore.
Melling advised those visiting the park to take extra precautions while swimming, and to consider distance and wind factors when deciding whether or not to take a swim out to the island, she said.
Sand Hollow State Park rescue crews, park rangers, and Hurricane Valley Fire and Rescue responded to the incident.
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