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Rescue reports on Geneva Lake nearly set record

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Kevin Hoffman
September 14, 2010
— Crowded beaches on Geneva Lake this summer forced lifeguards to make 17 rescues, nearly setting a record of beach pullouts through Labor Day.

Unseasonably warm weather likely led to an increase in visitors, Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol Operations Director Ted Pankau said. The non-profit organization has never made more than 18 rescues on the 12 beaches it patrols each year.


Pankau called several of the rescues “serious,” which includes completely submerged swimmers. The patrol also made various boat rescues around the lake but made it through the season with no deaths.


“To get through a whole season with the crowds and without a fatality I think was a little amazing,” Pankau said. “We keep hearing about other fatalities in other lakes in Wisconsin, drowning and other accidents. I think we were pretty lucky.”


The safety patrol celebrated its 90th anniversary this year. It staffs about 80 people, half of whom are beach lifeguards.


After Labor Day, lifeguards no longer staff the beaches. Boats continue to patrol the waters through the first week of November.


Despite the sluggish economy, beaches around Geneva Lake were packed most of the summer, Pankau said. Communities around the lake already are reporting a boost in revenue from beach admission prices.


Williams Bay Village Administrator Bob Carlson said the municipal beach generated $42,800 in revenue through August—$9,000 more than last year. Most of the money goes to pay salaries or make repairs.


Fontana, Williams Bay and Lake Geneva are the three main public beaches patrolled by the safety team.


“The question is really how did you increase your numbers,” Carlson said. “Whether they stayed the same I have no idea. With the economy the way it is maybe this is a pretty good bang for your buck.”


Pankau believes the crowds most likely led to the increase in rescues, though high winds and turbulent waters also create problems for swimmers.


“It’s not just a lot of luck, it was a lot of hard work by the people in the staff and the organization,” he said. “With all those pullouts at the beaches and rescues on the water, I know if we weren’t there some would have ended in disaster.”



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