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Your Health Matters: Family speaks out about cold water safety

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Looking out at Omena Bay in Leelanau County it's picture perfect almost like something from a storybook. That's part of the reason 44- year old David Dickerson lived there along the waters and had a passion for being outdoors whether it was fishing, kayaking or canoeing. He loved it all.

Looking out at Omena Bay in Leelanau County it's picture perfect almost like something from a storybook. That's part of the reason Rachel North's brother, 44- year old David Dickerson lived there along the waters and had a passion for being outdoors whether it was fishing, kayaking or canoeing. He loved it all.

"He had the right equipment whatever weather. So, he was experienced, skilled and very fit," says North.

On April 21st, 2012, David made sure he did what he thought was safe and went out on the water just like he had done hundreds of times before.

"My brother took his dog out in a canoe just to do a quick paddle around the bay about five or six o’clock and had a life jacket on. He didn’t come back," says North.

Knowing this was not at all like her brother, North and her family realized something was incredibly wrong. The Coast Guard was called in to start a search, a search that was a race against time.

"It was 8:15 when I made the call to 911 and it was 10:30 when they found my brother with his life jacket on near his boat. They could never revive him. I didn’t understand how he died because he had a life jacket on. Whatever put him into the water that day put him into 41 degree water. The coroner figured he had about 15 minutes before hypothermia would have set in," says North.

"Submersed in 40 degrees your time of useful consciousness is extremely low. You’re talking only 10 minutes or so. That’s where the dry suits comes into play," says Lieutenant Jon Ardan, a pilot with Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.

The dry suite was the one thing David Dickerson didn’t have with him that evening.

“It's such a loss to us, the pain of my brother hurts every day. I don’t want any other family to endure that. If you're not dressed for it or if you don't get out of the water in time, you're dead," says North.

It's a message North says she hopes people take to heart to ensure they can safely enjoy being out on the water.

The Coast Guard also wants to remind people besides having those dry suits and life jackets with you, let people know where you’re going on the water and consider taking a personal locator beacon with you anytime of the year.

For more information and advice with Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City click here.

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