First responders emphasize safety after drowning at Belews Lake

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- It's the first of what firefighters fear will be more drownings this summer in Belews Lake after a 19-year-old died Sunday.

First responders say this drowning was an accident, but they say it can happen to anyone, at any lake, if you're not careful.

Tyrell Smith, 19, drowned this weekend at a popular spot to swim on Belews Lake. First responders say the same stretch of lake will be packed with swimmers and boaters this weekend.

They're asking everyone to stay safe on the water.

"The way this lake drops off, and you're out swimming, you can get tired easily and not be able to touch the bottom, even though a few feet ago you were able to stand there waist-deep," said Shane Taylor, an assistant chief at the Belews Creek Fire Department.

It's not clear how Smith drowned, but Taylor says you can follow a few rules to keep your family safe.

"It's hard responding to an incident where you know it could have been prevented," he said.

The number one thing you should do, whether you're on a boat or in the water, is wear a life jacket. Make sure you get one that fits.

"It'll do no good if once you need it, it's not on you. It's too late," Taylor said.

Bring a circular flotation device with you to the lake or river to toss to someone who's struggling in the water.

"By the time we can get to you, if you're not floating, there's nothing we can do," Taylor said.

Don't try to rescue someone yourself. Instead, call 911 right away. First responders say by the time they arrived to Belews Lake, Smith had already been missing for 20 minutes.

"Swimming after a person who is out here that's drowning is discouraged, because you're just going to be another victim," Taylor said.

First responders say even for experienced swimmers, fun on the water can turn deadly fast.

"Anybody that's out here can get a cramp, be exhausted and go under," Taylor said. "Once you go under, there's not much anybody can do for you."

If you plan to spend time around any kind of water this summer, first responders also say to avoid alcohol if you plan to swim.