A little Columbia girl stood by her father as he talked to a park official who
said, “I told the fellow it was a dangerous pool and he went right in,
anyway.” It was too late for rescue; body recovery was under way. The
5-year-old girl interrupted the conversation by saying, “Why didn’t you get
your spare tire and save him?” Both men were puzzled. The child and her older
sister relayed a water safety lesson they’d learned a few days before in their
swimming class. A spare tire can be used to prevent drowning.
Reader’s Digest published an article on this topic in June 1966. A few days
later a Winona, Wis., reader heard a woman’s frantic call for help. Her
swimming companion was exhausted and couldn’t go on. The fellow ran to his
car, opened the trunk, got the spare wheel and quickly rolled it into the
lake. Pushing it ahead with one hand, he swam out to the troubled swimmer and
reached him in time to save his life.
All of us who have changed a tire know that the tire and wheel are very heavy.
Steel doesn’t float. Rubber doesn’t float. It’s the air in the tire that makes
it buoyant. I know of at least one Columbian who was trying this out, for
practice, with her spare wheel. Down it went because it was flat! An aired up
spare tire and wheel will float well enough to save several people. We keep an
old one at our swimming pool and frequently put it into the water to play on
and thereby teach a fun lesson in water safety.
There are ring buoys and torpedo buoys and other floating devices made
specifically for rescuing drowning victims. Lifeguards have them and are
trained to use them, but most drownings occur when people swim at unguarded
pools and beaches. One Columbia child drowned, years ago, when families waded
and swam and “everybody was watching.” Beware! When everybody’s watching,
nobody’s in charge. Instead, one person should be designated to take a spot
where he or she can see all of the swimmers and not be disturbed until it’s
time for another responsible adult to take a turn at guarding.
A drowning person fights to get air and suddenly becomes a wild, frightened
animal who will grab at anything. The rescuer can keep the wheel between
himself and the victim and therefore avoid danger. A well-meaning rescuer
should yell for help and not go out without some kind of protection. Almost
every car and truck has an aired spare wheel, which is the greatest lifesaver
known! Few drownings occur in areas where cars are not within running
Any floating object can be pushed or tossed to a victim to help him keep his
head above the surface; wooden chairs, benches, logs, etc., and plastic foam
picnic supplies or flutter boards will also save lives. The spare wheel,
however, is the greatest. Both rescuer and victim can rest on it until a boat
arrives or both can help push the wheel back to shore. The most important
thing is that there are these “greatest life preservers” are in almost every
auto. Play with one in the water, and you’ll not forget to use it for rescue
-- to protect yourself as well as to bring in a victim to safety.