The Picnic turned into a disaster.
Three young people drowned, one died two survived and it all happened in front of us for just couples of minutes. The lack of rescue facilities on the site totally made us could do nothing but watched how they struggled to save their life. We all felt guilty but on the other hand realized, helping them without proper equipment would only add number of victims.
It all began with our school reunion.
We had planned to hold a Junior High School reunion for months, since around 8 months ago. For your more information, the reunion participants consists of alumni where we went to SMP Mardiyuana (Mardiyuana Junior High School) for 3 years, from 1979 until 1982, in Sukabumi.
We are now in our fifties and live in different cities with various occupations we do for a living. The last reunion we held was in Bogor 8 months ago, that was also the time when we planned the recent reunion in Situgunung, Sukabumi.
So, we decided to hold our next reunion in a more special one in Situ Gunung, a scenic place near Sukabumi city. The decision to choose Situ Gunung was based on some considerations. First most of the alumni come from Sukabumi so we honor them and facilitate the majority to come, second Situ Gunung has two main attractions Sawarna lake and Sawer waterfall, we would concentrate our reunion programs at those two places respectively on the first and the second day. Third, there is a cozy villa just some meters away from Situ Gunung entrance we could rent. It was called Villa Cemara which could accommodate 50 of us and really gave us convenience to execute the reunion activities. So, in brief we all had agreed to hold the occasion in Situ Gunung.
Situ Gunung also has nice, moderate trekking field, so we also took a lot of advantage from trekking tracks to and from waterfall and became one of funnest activities regardless the tragedy we had watched there.
Lake Sawarna was the location we held our reunion programs on the first day. I was unlucky and had to miss programs at Lake Sawarna because of long, bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on toll roadon when I was on the way there. I had to be satisfied enjoying the beautiful lake from the photos my friend sent me with my regrets not leaving home much earlier in the morning. If only I had not trapped in those traffic jams, I would have been part of that Sawarna fun moment.
The danger of swimming under a waterfall.
When we are in fun atmosphere like on a picnic, holiday or other outdoor recreational activities, many of us often forget some precautions that we should hold dearly. I guessed the same atmorphere also happened to some young people (seemed to be university students) whom we met and bathed at Curug Sawer or Sawer waterfall on the same day as our visit.
According to SwimmingHoles.info, a website which gives safety advices when people visit natural swimming destinations in America and Canada, swimming at waterfalls may pose threats if people neglect some precautions regarding the following conditions :
- Water pool under a waterfall has strong current. Don't let quiet, calm-looking surface deceive you.
- Never swim under the influence of alcohol
- Do not dive natural pools particularly those with waterfalls at them.
- Do not let peer pressure drive you to challenge situation that's hard for you to deal with.
- Check both the stream and depth before swimming.
- Have experience swimmer with at least basic equipment i.e ropes, life jacket or tubes, to supervise the swimming activities.
- Do some warming up before swimming.
Natural pools with waterfalls have drowning streams.
How to handle the drowning stream of waterfalls.
One tip given by SwimmingHole.info which I find very important for swimmers to know and agreeable with my personal experience in swimming :
"If you find yourself being swept away in a current; don't panic, don't fight against the current and do not try to stand up since foot can get trapped in rocks. Float feet downstream on your back, let the current carry you until it becomes more gentle and/or until you calm down. Gradually use your arms to paddle to the shore".
The swimmer panicked and disappeared..
September 22, 2014, at Sawarna waterfall, Situ Gunung. As I've mentioned before a group of young people were there to swim together. They seemed to be carried away by their exciting picnic that they forgot about the waterfall danger.
Two young men slowly moved approaching the waterfall body. They sat on a fallen trunk lying across the corner of the pool and carefully dragged themselves to get closer to the waterfall. From their outfits, I knew they wanted to swim as close as possible to the waterfall. When they had been at some distance, one of guys who sat in front suddenly slipped down and plunged into the water. We thought it was okay for some time until we found out that the fallen boy was not a good swimmer. He seemed to have difficulties to handle the situation. He tried to grab his friend's hand who stretch his hand to give help but he failed. Their hands were wet and it made too slippery for them to hold one another, while the waves also tossed him up and down in water.
About swimming at natural pools.
Do you like to swim at natural pools ?
He tried to grab everything around him but his efforts were in vain. His movement got weaker and we could see he was pulled into the water deeper and deeper. We first saw him in chest depth but now we only saw his head with gaping mouth. His friend at the water banks couldn't do nothing but screamed to other people for help.
Please, help him !, help our friend !! "
but we sadly only watched in horror since the water was too deep with strong waves and drowning turbulence below its surface. We wanted to help but we couldn't.....
What we were afraid about eventually came to realize...the drowned guy finally disappeared...
I was so deeply influenced by the tragedy I had seen. My assumption said those guys didn't have sufficient skills and knowledge how to handle drowning stream under the waterfall At Sawarna.
My personal experience: Dangerous method how they taught me to swim.
I still remember one advice I got when I learned how to swim in the river in my childhood, :"You have to dare to drown first if you want to be able to swim !" that was what peers around me said in giving me encouragement. Few moments after that, my masculinity was influenced and I plunged myself into the river and...what happened next was predictable.. I was gasping like a fish trying to breathe and my hands tried to reach anything to stay on the surface. That was the moment I knew and experienced drowning for the first time !.
My seniors who were capable in swimming saved me and pulled me over to the bank..lol. I don't recommend this method to today's swimming learners since it is very risky although it finally taught me successfully how to swim after practicing it several times.