Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS-- There are extra patrols on the lakefront Monday after a father nearly lost his life trying to save his children Sunday.

His two boys were pulled to safety yesterday from the London Canal near Lake Pontchartrain. But the father is in critical condition after he was under the water for 15 minutes.

Experts have prevention and safety advice as the summer swimming season begins.

First, some facts. Drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children younger than 14 in the U.S. and the sixth leading cause of deaths for all ages.

Alcohol and not wearing life vests make your risk of drowning even higher.

It's hot and it's a holiday, so more people take the plunge. The New Orleans Fire Department is out patrolling along Lakeshore Drive.

A man relies on his chocolate Labrador retrievers to get him to shore for fun, while a family of five children relies on dad if anyone goes under.

He said he would know how to rescue them if they were drowning.

'Oh yeah, we know how to swim,' said Jose Montes from the West Bank.

Mom can't swim, but she holds the two little one's arms right on the water's edge.

An LSUHSC Emergency Medicine doctor said he has never seen a person with a life vest during recreational water play drown.

'Absolutely, life jackets. It's amazing how fast someone will go under water and disappear,' says Dr. Sean Hardy. He is the associate director of emergency services at the LSU Interim Hospital and Spirit of Charity Trauma Center. He is also in the section of diving and hyperbaric medicine.

Doctors and Red Cross safety experts often see the person who acts as the rescuer get into trouble.

'People flailing around, things like that, it's very easy to become pushed underwater yourself. It's also easy to underestimate just exactly how far away someone is, and swimming, particularly trying to pull someone in, is an exceedingly exhausting activity,' Dr. Hardy said.

'A person who is drowning is really trying to climb out of the water, and if you get too close to that person trying to climb out of the water, they're going to use you to climb out, and that gets you into trouble because now they are pushing you under, pulling you down and there's nothing you can do about it,' said Ruth Alleman, a Red Cross safety instructor for Preparedness, Health and Safety services.

'The person who is afraid of the water is going to be your drowning victim,'Alleman said. 'They don't know what to do. They don't know how to save themselves.'

In minutes, there can be permanent brain damage.

'One of the most valuable things that us, or anyone can do, even lay person, is well-performed uninterrupted CPR as soon as possible. It's probably the most important thing for almost any injury,' Dr. Hardy said.

The Red Cross tells us that in the U.S., only 51 percent of white people can swim, and only one-third of African Americans know how to swim.

They have free swimming classes for all ages and all you have to do is sign up at one of the 13 NORD pools. You can get details here or call 504-620-3105 or 1-800-229-8191.

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