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Drowning Victim’s Parents Help Teach About Dangers Of Rip Currents

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'Even An Olympic Swimmer Can't Fight Rip Currents'

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(CBS) – A southwest suburban couple hope to present more open water safety programs in the future, just as they did on Wednesday at their late son’s former school.

John and Kathy Kocher were among the participants at a Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project water safety presentation at Andrew High School in Tinley Park.

The Kochers’ 15-year old son, Matt, drowned last summer in Lake Michigan, unable to deal with a rip current, even though he was a three-sport athlete.

Kathy said she wants “Flip, Float, and Follow” to be just as familiar to people about saving their lives in the water as “Stop, Drop, and Roll” is for saving lives in fires.

“Flip on your back to conserve energy. Float. Calm yourself down. Don’t panic. Follow the current out and follow to the safest location,” she said

John said people are mostly inexperienced with rip currents in the open water, like Lake Michigan, and they don’t know “dangerous currents are constantly flowing” even when the surface appears calm.

And, being athletic doesn’t mean you can survive a rip current.

The Kochers say their son was 6’4″, 240 pounds and was an athlete who played football, basketball and volleyball.

“Even an Olympic swimmer can’t fight rip currents,” Kathy said.

Since 2010, there have been 340 drownings on the Great Lakes, the Kochers said. Just last year, there were 68, with 24 of them on Lake Michigan.

“Floating is the most critical aspect of surviving drowning, especially if you’re off-shore,” said Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project executive director Dave Benjamin.