For nearly 40 years a Sammamish woman has helped save lives with her water survival courses

With record-breaking heat expected this weekend, more families are enjoying pools, lakes, and rivers than any other time of the year.  

But search and rescue crews remain cautious every summer about freezing water temps as already in June they responded to three deadly drownings.

A Sammamish woman hopes to help save lives with her water survival courses, teaching kids as young as two years old how to survive the unexpected while in the water.  

Kathie Neir, a swimming instructor at KTAP Swimming, has been teaching swim lessons and water survival courses from her backyard pool for almost 40 years.

"I tell [students] about people that have drowned as a result [to water-related emergencies], and I tell them, you could be the best swimmer in the world but if you get hypothermia or your legs go absolutely numb, and your numb, you’re not going to go anywhere," said Neir.  

Neir says it’s essential to get kids accustomed to putting their faces underwater.

"We start them young trying to blow bubbles. First they blow the candle, then we start on the bubbles. Then eventually the whole face goes in the water," says Neir. 

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In the fall some of the younger swimmers will take her water survival course, which starts with a jump in the pool wearing all of their clothes.  

"Then they have to swim. They have to get to the side depending on how old they are," Neir says. "I'll say, ‘Was that easy swimming with your clothes.' They’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, that was easy.’ [Then] I’ll say, ‘Go do it again.’"

Neir says she works with even 3-year-olds that can do these skills or simply float on the water with no problems, skills she says are a survival tool in the water. 

She also teaches those water survival skills to adults. And when teaching children, Neir says she doesn’t allow the kids to wear goggles. She says for many kids, the goggles are a crutch: when they fall off, the kids panic because they can’t swim without their goggles.  

Another skill Neir teaches kids is how to prepare for stressful situations such as when being thrown off a raft or boat.

"We have rafts like we’re going boating. We flip the raft over, then we teach them do you go back to the raft? Do you swim away from the raft? And then we have them get trapped under the raft," Neir said. 

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She says after practicing these real-life situations, many parents come back to her classes and say it's happened to their children before and that they are glad they learned these skills. 

This is one of many reasons why one local mother, Ally Thompson is willing to endure a sobbing toddler during the lessons, knowing these skills could potentially help save her own child. 

"We have a lake cabin we go to in the summer, and there’s just so much water around here. It’s just a really important thing for them to be able to swim and just have that trust as they get older."  

Over the years, passing on survival skills to more than 10,000 children, Neir has helped families feel more secure when around the water.

To learn more about her classes offered, visit the KTAP website here


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