water safety

13-year-old Boy Saves Victim of Shallow Water Blackout

Editor's Note: This week we received an email from a mother whose 13-year-old son experienced a shallow water blackout while their family was vacationing in Orlando, Florida.  This story shows how SWB can happen to an adolescent even while under responsible adult supervision.  We applaud young Clayton for his alertness and rescue of his best friend, Reagan.  Thank you, Teresa, for sharing your story and helping to raise awareness of the dangers of shallow water blackout. Lives will be saved!

Clayton (Left) and Reagan (Right)

Clayton (Left) and Reagan (Right)

A Story of Survival, as told by Teresa Lamear

"We went to Orlando with our 13 year old son Reagan and brought along a family friend, Clayton, who is the same age in March of this year. These boys have been close friends since first grade and get along fabulously. I don’t think they’ve ever fought.  We rented a house with a pool and hit the parks for a few days. The last day we spent at the house relaxing.

When we first got to the house and the boys jumped in the pool, we told them 'Hey, no crazy jumping. No ER trips this weekend.'  Saturday they were swimming pretty much the majority of the day either in the pool or the hot tub. With or without goggles.

Around 7:30 pm, the boys were in the pool and thankfully my husband Ron and I were also on the patio. At 13 years old and healthy kids, used to being in swimming pools their entire life, it wouldn’t be unknown for us to walk away briefly. Take the dogs for a walk, fix food in the kitchen etc. We were watching our tablets for a delayed rocket launch at Cape Canaveral while the boys swam. 

Reagan was taking his turn swimming underwater seeing how far he could go. He hadn’t gone nearly as far as he normally does when Clayton noticed his body language change. Instead of thinking it was a joke, Clayton swam to Reagan and pulled off his face mask goggles. He could tell Reagan was dead weight and making an odd sound. He started swimming holding Reagan’s head above water towards the edge. When Clayton came up for air he yelled for us and caught our attention. By then he had Reagan at the edge of the pool and we pulled him out. Reagan was still unconscious. I don’t know how many seconds passed, felt like at least 30, before he came to. He didn’t cough up any water. He was just confused what was going on. Last thing he remembered was swimming underwater and knowing he needed to go up for air. He had fainted before he could come up for air.

He was completely fine and responding to everything normally. After consulting a relative who works in the ER, we determined we didn’t need to take him in. But were still very concerned wondering why this happened. Needless to say, I slept right next to him that night!

We let his older sisters know what happened. They were also shaken up by the close call. Our oldest daughter started looking up what could have caused Reagan to faint. She found information about your organization. After reading the information, it was very obvious that Reagan’s situation fit the Shallow Water Blackout description exactly.

We were SO FORTUNATE. Clayton was a hero that day for how quickly he reacted. We had a lot of discussions that night and the next day about the importance of Never play-drowning. Swimming with a buddy. Keeping an eye on your friends. CPR techniques and many other things.

I thank God every day that we have our boy and things did not turn out tragically as easy as they could have. I feel compelled to somehow warn other families.  Thank you so much for your organization and efforts to raise awareness. Living in SW Florida (Cape Coral, FL), we have a lot of interaction with pools and water. Hopefully we can help raise awareness also."

New Research Shows Hyperventilation Not Necessary for SWB to Occur

On March 22, 2017, The Inertia published an article detailing new research that indicates hyperventilation is NOT necessary for SWB to occur.  You can read this informative article here.

The aquatics experts here at Shallow Water Blackout Prevention are very pleased to learn this (much needed) research is taking place.  Dr. Rhonda Milner, Founder and Chairman of SWBP, commented on the article, saying this:

Thank you, Phil for a great and enlightening article. Thank you Dr. Merritt for your research at VitalityPro. This explains why we at Shallow Water Blackout Prevention have said all along, blackouts do and can occur without hyperventilation.

This means that O2 depletion is as important as abnormally lowering CO2 levels with hyperventilation leading to SWB. That is why multiple, repetitive breath-holding laps are so dangerous. O2 levels can get so depleted, when not allowed a chance to be fully restored, that a person blacks out before they have CO2 levels high enough to signal them to breathe.

We have also found that a determined person can ignore his urge to breathe finding the urge to breathe temporarily subsiding. I would love to see research on the explanation and physiology of the observation. I suspect endorphins are released giving a feeling of euphoria. This all supports why multiple, repetitive, competitive breath-holding laps with hyperventilation are a lethal combination. Hence, the two Navy SEALs that died a few years ago in the base pool in Norfolk, VA while competing against each other doing breath-holding laps.

It looks like the pulmonary training program at VitalityPro is aerobically based which we have supported as how to best build and strengthen lung capacity with wind sprints, and so on. Hypoxic training underwater anaerobically is dangerous and can lead to blackout without warning. And, it certainly should never be performed without close supervision. As stated earlier, this research is so important because it proves that SWB is not only caused from hyperventilation, but from O2 depletion and inadequate restoration of O2 levels. It also gives further explanation for the cause of surface blackouts when free diving, besides redistribution of blood flow secondary to pulmonary pressure gradient changes.

I am so glad VitalityPro is doing this needed research on the physiology and causes of SWB. This is what we have so needed. Kudos to all involved at VitalityPro. Thank you, Dr. Frank Merritt for your research and as founder of VitalityPro, Brandon Rager as director of VitalityPro, and Phil White at theinertia.com for this article. We would love to add this article to our website and stay in touch with VitalityPro and their active research. Also, great chart illustration!

Thank you!
Rhonda Milner, MD
Founder and Chairman, Shallow Water Blackout Prevention

Young Boy Saves Teen From Shallow Water Blackout

Staff, swimmers at Palo Alto pool credited with saving teen's life.

Photo and article from Fox affiliate KTVU, Fox2

Photo and article from Fox affiliate KTVU, Fox2



PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - Staff and swimmers at a Palo Alto country club are being credited with saving the life of a 17-year old boy. They say he nearly drowned, after blacking out at swim practice.

Austin Chase wasn't breathing when staff members pulled him out of the pool. And while they had never dealt with anything quite like this before, they had trained for it..read more

Drowning Deaths of Two Navy SEALs Were Due to Shallow Water Blackout

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Brett Allen Marihugh, 34, of Livonia died April 24,2015.  A group of trainees found him and Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Seth Cody Lewis of Queens, New York, at the bottom of a combat training pool. Lewis also died.

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Brett Allen Marihugh, 34, of Livonia died April 24,2015.  A group of trainees found him and Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Seth Cody Lewis of Queens, New York, at the bottom of a combat training pool. Lewis also died.

The Detroit News has obtained a copy of the results of the Navy's formal investigation of the drownings of two Navy SEAL's at a naval training facility in Virginia this past April.

Please view their informative article about the results of the investigation here

Highlights include:

- Cause of deaths have been ruled as shallow water blackout

- The Navy will now require a lifeguard or first-class swimmer to be present on deck at Naval Special Warfare pools for all conditioning swims other than laps. 

- Signs will be posted in pool facilities expressly prohibiting breath-holding.

- Rear Admiral B.L. Losey, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, has ordered a review of all training requiring breath-holding for compliance with safety standards, and for inspections at pool facilities to ensure the proper posting of emergency-response plans and equipment.

- Technically they were abiding by the "two man rule" so their deaths were not due to misconduct, as ruled by the Navy.

“Our commitment to be the best and push ourselves to ever higher levels of proficiency must be tempered by safety compliance that is often learned from a past tragedy like this one,” Rear Admiral B.L. Losey, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, wrote in an Aug. 14 letter accompanying the investigation. “Overconfidence is an ever-present risk factor.”

Our deepest condolences to the families of these true American heroes.  

Proposed Regulation for Pool Signage in NYC

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has published a draft regulation that would require all swimming pool operators in NYC to post a sign with a specific image alerting swimmers that underwater breath-holding is dangerous and prohibited.

The department is accepting comments on the proposed regulation
until November 24, 2015, and welcomes our input.

Please click on the link below to comment on the proposed
regulation and show YOUR support.
Lives will be saved!


View more details about the proposed regulation here.