There's been one near drowning so far this year in the Newton area — bringing the two year total to three including one death in 2012.

Those numbers don't sound like much, but combined with 13 drownings so far at state parks in 2013 and the summer swimming and boating season heating up, officials are concerned.

"Know your own limitations, do not attempt swimming or other activities without use of a personal flotation device if you’re not able to swim proficiently, especially in lakes or streams, as the water depth can rapidly change, even in areas which appear to be shallow," wrote Mark Willis, Newton Fire/EMS chief in an email to The Kansan.

His department has two rescue boats and surface rescue equipment for swift water rescue situations.Those have been deployed to Harvey County East Lake for a drowning event within the last 18 months.

"We had a serious near drowning at East Lake last year," Willis said.

The only drowning recorded by Newton Fire/EMS last year was in a hotel pool. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly half of all drownings in the U.S. occur in natural water settings.

Nine of the 12 accidents in state parks occurred when the victims were swimming or wading and were not boating related. Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) investigates boating accidents. Only one of the victims was wearing a life jacket.

"The most important safety message we can extend is to avoid alcohol when swimming, boating, or doing other activities around water," Willis said. "Wear personal flotation devices, or have them accessible at all times."