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Wearing life jackets can save a life. (Doug Manifold / The Signpost)

If you fall overboard and go underwater, there is a ten percent chance that you will not return to the surface and that you will drown immediately.

According to Gordon Giesbrecht, a professor of thermophysiology at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, the founder of the Canadian Cold Water Boot Camp program, one of the initial reactions to immersion in cold water, which is defined as water colder than 70-degrees Fahrenheit, is to inhale water directly into the lungs.

in June 2015, a family from Pleasant View and three friends departed the marina at Bear Lake for a day of fun on the water. High winds that day caused rough water with waves reaching six feet, causing their boat to capsize. Four of the seven people onboard drowned.

Everyone who was on the boat that day was wearing a life jacket, a fact that may have save the lives of the other three members of the group.

In his lectures, Giesbrecht talks about the 1-10-1 Principle. It goes something like this: when someone falls into very cold water, the first minute is critical. If you do inhale enough water as you react to the cold water shock response, you could very possibly ingest as much as one liter of water, causing you to sink and not resurface.

The next ten minutes are critical to the drowning person’s ability to help yourself. During those ten minutes, the body begins to suffer the effects of the cold and muscles lose coordination – the cold water incapacitation effect. After those ten minutes, muscles may be too cold to function and carry a person to safety.

The final part of the 1-10-1 Principle is the first hour after someone falls overboard. There is a common myth that hypothermia causes people to die immediately. Giesbrecht says that it is more like an hour of immersion before hypothermia begins the process that leads to possible irreversible trauma. And one hour is not a universal rule.

How soon a victim succumbs to hypothermia depends on several factors. The Cold Water Boot Camp points out that wearing a life jacket can be critical, body fat can be your friend and being in good physical condition can also be your friend. The water temperature itself is also a critical factor.

If someone is wearing a life jacket before they fall in, they are not likely to suffer the water inhalation crises phase. Research shows that 90 percent of those who drown were not wearing a lifejacket.

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Wearing life jackets can save a life. (Doug Manifold / The Signpost)

Giesbrecht said that body fat is an insulator and can help to protect vital organs and muscles against the effect of cold water heat loss. Body fat can slow down the heat loss process. Also, body fat is lighter than water and can help a victim float better; however, it is also important to be in good health.

The outcome of falling overboard just might depend on two critical factors: if the victim is wearing a life jacket, and if there is someone else onboard who can help them get out of the water.

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Life jackets and being in good physical can be critical to survival in the water. (Doug Manifold / The Signpost)

In the case of the Capener family and friends, they were all wearing lifejackets. Unfortunately, when their boat capsized, there was no one immediately around to rescue them. After more than three hours in the cold waters of Bear Lake, tragically, four of the victims died.

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