Apple Watch has been an excellent swim tracker since gaining stronger water resistance and aquatic workouts with Series 2 – the device has since evolved into a must-have swimming companion and lifeguard of sorts. That’s what happened in Oregon last week when first responders were able to rescue a trapped swimmer who called 911 from her Apple Watch.
Apple Watch SOS
A woman swimming in the Columbia River found herself trapped in 56-degree water when her foot got caught in rocks, according to a police report out of Dalles, Oregon. Police say that the woman was nearing exhaustion and showing signs of hypothermia when she was rescued.
“The swimmer advised that she had been caught in the river for over 30 minutes, and that she had made the emergency call from her Apple watch,” the report says.
Apple Watch includes an SOS feature that allows users to call emergency services by holding the side button for a few seconds. SOS and making phone calls requires an Apple Watch that supports cellular and an active plan to work without the user’s iPhone nearby.
When first responders arrived on the scene, they tried to provide a ladder to the distressed swimmer while prying apart the rocks that trapped her foot. The rescue attempt was unsuccessful.
“Officer Reams assessed the scene and determined that the rescue of the swimmer needed to be immediate, and that he would be able to aid in the rescue only by entering the water to feel how the entrapment was occurring, since the water was too murky and fast to allow any visible inspection from above,” according to the police report.
“Officer Reams left his ballistic vest and duty belt on the shore and cautiously entered the water downstream of the swimmer,” the report continues. “Officer Reams reached under the water and was just able to reach the swimmer’s foot. Only Officer Reams’ head was not submerged. Officer Reams was able to free the swimmer’s stuck foot and bring her to shore and the care of the fire fighters.”
Newer iPhones are splash resistant, but Apple Watches are rated for use during pool and open water swims. The likelihood of swimming with your iPhone on purpose is slim, and the watch form factor encourages use in such scenarios.
This story has a happy ending thanks to the Apple Watch being able to call 911, but it was still an extremely dangerous situation when first responders arrived. It help was called any later (or not at all), the incident could have ended very differently.
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