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Swedish drownings reach 15-year high

The Local · 10 Jul 2014, 12:59

Published: 10 Jul 2014 12:59 GMT+02:00

A total of 21 people drowned in Sweden in June 2014. By contrast, 14 people were killed out on the water in June 2013. The increase marks the highest rate for 15 years.

Of the victims; 19 of them were men, one was a three-year-old boy, and only one was a woman. Indeed, 85 percent of all drowning victims in 2013 were male.

"One of the main problems is that a lot of men think they are made of steel and won't get into trouble in the water. Nine out of ten victims are male, which is a very high figure," Anders Wernesten of the Swedish Life Saving Association (Svenska livräddningssällskapet) told The Local.

Wernesten added that many of the victims were older than 50 and were inclined to go swimming far out into the sea.

"What tends to happen is that they get cold and tired. It can also be the case that they have another type of illness which is made worse by being in the water for a long period of time," he said.

Many of the deaths last month were linked to fishing trips. Two men, aged in the 30s and 60s, were found dead in June after going out fishing Lake Hjälmaren in central Sweden.

The following day a 45-year-old man drowned when the canoe he was piloting with his five-year-old son capsized. His son, who was wearing a life jacket, managed to raise the alarm, but his father perished.

A total of ten of the 21 deaths were associated with fishing excursions. Many of the victims were aged over 50, with three of the deceased men being over the age of 80.

However, there were some young victims including a 20-year-old man who drowned during graduation celebrations. The sole woman who died was 29, after she got swept out to sea while swimming.

In almost all cases the wearing of a life jacket could have made significant difference, Wernesten said.

"Wearing a life jacket can be the difference between life and death. In the summer when the weather is warm, like it is this year, the number of deaths increase so people need to be extra careful," said Wernesten.

In 2014 there have already been 50 drowning-related deaths, which is a similar figure to the same time last year. In 2013 a total of 129 died in the water. By contrast, the cooler summer of 2010 claimed 79 lives on the water.

Story continues below…

Alcohol is often a factor, Wernesten said.

"It is not unusual to find traces of alcohol in the bloodstream among victims. Put simply, people should not drink and swim and they should be more willing to wear a life jacket," he added.

In a recent survey ordered by insurance agency Försäkringsbolaget IF, 28 percent of Swedes confessed they had not swum 200 metres during the past ten years. In Sweden swimming 200 metres is used as a standard for testing swimming ability, and considered the shortest length one should be able to swim.

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