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Expert divers discuss water safety in lower-clarity water after drowning at KOA camoground

After a 15-year-old's drowning death at a Monroe County campground Saturday, divers who respond to tragedies share the challenges of campgrounds with similar waters.

MONROE COUNTY, Mich. — The death of 15-year-old Jaylen Hill is still under investigation after he drowned at a KOA Campground in Monroe County, Michigan.

Saturday's tragedy happened almost a year after a near-death drowning that happened at the same swimming pond last year.

RELATED: ‘Live-saving measures’ in progress for victim found in pond at KOA Campground

The Monroe County Dive Team was on the scene both times.

Expert divers in Toledo said it is much harder for swimmers to not only handle deeper waters, but also for responders to navigate in them.

Gary Quinn is a Toledo Firefighter Paramedic Diver who responds to tragedies similar to Hill's. He said water clarity plays a huge role in rescue efforts.

"[It's] the point of zero visibility, so you'll only be able to see as far as you go out," Quinn said. "As you get deeper, your residential ponds ... usually have some type of clarity to that water."

He said people are in the water more at campground ponds, which disrupts the surface and clarity of the water.

Seaweed and other debris in murkier waters can catch onto someone and hinder their swimming too.

Lt. Alex Hennessy, a Dive Master for the Toledo Firefighter Paramedics, said lower-clarity waters are like swimming in chocolate milk. 

"You don't know if it's a foot deep or 10 feet deep," Hennessy said. "So as far as it affects us, we're not able to see, we have to search by feel when we go down to look for somebody."

He advised that all swimmers in open water have a life vest and supervision to help in case of an emergency.

Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said the only issues they regulate at campground beaches are requirements that suitable safety equipment is present and emergency phone numbers are posted.

They said the KOA facility in Monroe County was in compliance with these requirements during an inspection in May.

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