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Tragedies overshadow summer swim season at Steel Lake
A pair of fatal accidents cast a shadow on the summer swim season at Steel Lake.
The swim season starts the weekend after school lets out for the year, and ends on Labor Day, according to the city. The lake is staffed with anywhere between two to six lifeguards, depending on the time and volume of swimmers present.
This year, those lifeguards oversaw approximately 10,000 visitors to the lake.
In July, Prabhakar “Jay” Kumar, 17, lost his life after being submerged for an extended period of time in Steel Lake. Last month, 15-year-old Tope Akinlosotu was submerged for an extended period of time in the lake, and died from complications due to his submersion.
In each instance, rescuers were able to locate the young men and begin resuscitation efforts. Both were revived and taken to local hospitals, where they eventually succumbed to the effects of their prolonged submersion in the water.
Cary Roe, Federal Way’s Director of Parks, Public Works and Emergency Management, gave a brief overview of the swimming season at Steel Lake during the Federal Way City Council’s Sept. 4 meeting.
Roe offered his sympathy to the friends and families of two young men who died from incidents this year at the lake.
“I’d like to extend my condolences to the families and friends of the two young men who lost their lives at Steel Lake this year,” Roe said. “At the parks department, we take that very seriously, and take a lot of steps to try to keep that from happening. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this time, but I did want to extend my condolences to their families and friends.”
Roe said the city annually inspects the dock and some related structures at the lake, along with signage. Another thing the city offers at Steel Lake is a life-jacket loaner program, which Roe said Federal Way residents took advantage of this summer.
“We have 40 life jackets at Steel Lake, we offer them on a first come, first served basis. Most are returned, sometimes they aren’t,” Roe said. “We figure if they don’t bring them back, then they probably needed them, so we don’t chase them down too much. We had about 1,200 loaned lifejackets this season. They’re getting used, and it’s a program we think is worthy of continuing.”
Roe said there’s a number of swimming lesson programs available for people of all ages, including a class specifically aimed at teens who need to learn how to swim.
“The program is designed for this to be done with other teens, and not younger children,” he said. “You get some peer pressure and embarrassment (when the teens) are with the younger kids, or even adults. It’s a program we’ve been doing the last couple of years, and it’s growing. We’ll continue to reach out to those teens to make sure they know this program is here.”
To learn more about the programs offered at Steel Lake during the summer, contact (253) 835-2710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.