Hidden Dangers Widespread in Career Swimming | Journal-news

A recent death at a quarry in Bakerton has local law enforcement hoping to alert individuals to the dangers of swimming in these bodies of water.

Additionally, those who recreate in or near the quarries should be aware that these quarries located in Jefferson County are all privately owned.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Victor Lupis said only the owners of the quarries and those they designate have legal access to the sites. He added that while his department gets calls from the Bakerton area, most often it’s Millville Quarry that draws swimmers and snorkelers.

“We get frequent calls, as do the state police, to evict trespassers from Millville Quarry,” Lupis said. “Those who come are, most often, teenagers and are usually from out of town.”

Various hazards make swimming in quarries more perilous than in other areas. Traditionally, the water from a quarry is much colder than that from rivers, lakes and oceans. Often, quarries are fed with water from underground springs or aquifers, which come from deep within the ground.

The body, when entering such a cold body of water, follows a three-step response. The first stage, within the first four minutes, is cold shock. A gasp can cause drowning in seconds. Initial exposure to cold water can also affect the body’s breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

Depending on the time spent in the water, circulation can decrease, causing stiff fingers, less coordination and loss of motor skills. This body reaction makes it difficult, if not impossible, to grab a rescue line or winch, and the ability to swim safely or get out of the water becomes impossible.

Research shows that most cold water deaths result from cold shock or loss of ability to function physically; however, hypothermia can occur when a person is unable to escape cold quarry waters. True hypothermia sets in after 30 minutes, but in a quarry with no walls, vegetation or other mechanism to achieve safety, it is quite possible that one could stay in the water for more than 30 minutes.

“When people come from outside the area, they don’t know about the quarries here and don’t know the depth, if there are any rock ledges or any other details that could pose safety risks,” said explained Lupis.

Lupis attributed a draw to careers by young swimmers, in particular, is capturing sideways diving on film.

“They film themselves jumping off cliffs to share on social media,” Lupis said. “Failing to know the water and the dangers that lurk beneath the surface can lead to injury and death. Drownings happen, and it’s just horrible.

Quarries can be very deep, often 50 feet or more, so that a swimmer cannot touch bottom to allow time for a rest or for any recovery time after that initial shock of cold water.

Other physical characteristics of quarries also make them a risk. Steep drop-offs, sharp rocks, flooded equipment, submerged cables, and other potential industrial waste can make swimming risky. Often these obstacles are not visible until one encounters them while swimming – often too late to compensate or escape the dangers. Potentially strong currents exist in the quarries and take swimmers by surprise.

Legal repercussions can arise when people choose to enter property that does not belong to them. However, this is often the least of the worries with recreational activities in quarries.

“These quarries may be a swimming spot, but they are not public places, and they are not accessible to the public,” Lupis pointed out, adding that the quarries are properly marked against intruders.