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Drownings: It’s that time of year - a message from the King County Sheriff

The King County Sheriff urges all those enjoying the water ways to wear a life jacket. - Courtesy of the King County Sheriff
The King County Sheriff urges all those enjoying the water ways to wear a life jacket.
— image credit: Courtesy of the King County Sheriff

The following is a press release from the King County Sheriff's Office:

Spring is here and as the weather warms up, more people will be taking to the water for recreation. As a reminder, the King County Sheriff’s Office warns that as water recreation  increases so will potential drownings.

A small fact – paddle craft, which include fishing row boats, account for most of the fatal boating accidents in Washington State.

For many years power boats were the leaders in fatality accidents, however with the new push on outdoor recreation, most boating deaths occur in human powered vessels.

“U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets are the best way to prevent drowning during water recreation,” said King County Sheriff Marine Sergeant James Knauss.

Each life jacket will have printing (a label) on the inside back panel stating “Coast Guard Approved.” The label identifies size and weight limits. A life jacket is considered serviceable if it looks like it still works, straps and/ or buckles have not rotted off, and outer material is not torn or missing.

Overloading is another common problem on waterways.Large boats have placards that show “vessel capacity” which indicates the number of people that can be onboard and/or total weight limit. If either of the two limits established by the manufacture are exceeded, there is a violation.

You can’t add the two together or choose which to follow. For example if the boat says two people, then three people on board is a violation even if the weight is still under the limit. Likewise, if you have two onboard but exceed the weight, it is still a violation. Most two-person boats cannot support two “healthy” adult males. Dogs in the water have also contributed to drownings in the last couple of years, specifically on rivers. If your dog is in the water and appears to be swept away by the current, do NOT go in after them. Dogs usually find their way to shore on their own. Drownings can be prevented with a little common sense.

Wear a life jacket, don’t overload your boat and remember the water is cold which can quickly lead to hypothermia.

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