Is there nothing that can be said or done to stop the drownings in the Potomac? Are there always people who disregard every warning, threat or plea and insist on daring the lethal waters between Chain Bridge and just above Great Falls? How many mornings in the coming months will we read stories about people swept away and sucked under -- and the grim searches for bodies?
The answers aren't all in yet -- but the way things are going so far this year, the outlook is awful. Add another victim from Sunday, and the death toll is already at six -- with summer not even officially begun. Next question: Who among us will see somebody destined to be the next victim, scrambling gleefully around those rocks or wading into a seemingly shallow and calm pool along the shoreline?
The U.S. Park Police and the park service people on duty say that nothing short of a human wall of authorities along the most treacherous 11-mile stretch would prevent more drownings. Granted -- but every available set of eyes should be enlisted to report, arrest, fine and even jail those spotted in the danger zones. Civilians -- anybody -- should join this effort to crack down on those who ignore the danger.
If a helicopter is available between those expensive and dangerous rescue missions, let it fly a stern warning overhead. Yes, more warning signs may be ugly, but so are drownings. Post the names and home towns of every victim for all to see at the park entrance. Post the news clippings too. Put warnings about the dangers and the penalties on maps and tourist literature distributed around town. Consider closing the park for a day or two every time there is a death, to bring still more attention to the dangers. What about a corps of weekend volunteers from various organizations -- Scout troops, fraternal orders or business groups -- to help patrol for a few weekends, just to see if this cuts down the deaths?
As you probably have guessed, we'll have more to say on this, because the message seems to bear endless repeating, and because there have to be ways to diminish the ignorance and foolishness that have come to haunt this otherwise beautiful recreation area -- and that have made death such a horribly regular event there.