Experts urge stand up paddle boarders to wear life jackets after - KPTV - FOX 12

Experts urge stand up paddle boarders to wear life jackets after woman's death

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

As deputies continue searching for a paddle boarder who drowned near Sauvie Island, experts are weighing in on taking safety precautions on the water.

At 4:20 p.m. on Sunday, bystanders called 911 when 28-year-old Ha Khuong Vo Dang disappeared under the water.

Officials said she fell off her stand up paddle board and was not wearing a life jacket.

Multnomah County River Patrol Sergeant Mark Herron said a life jacket can be the difference between life and death.

“Even if you’re a great swimmer, it buys you time,” said Herron. “And time becomes very crucial.”

Just this past week, Herron said the water level on the Columbia River has gone down four feet. So stumps, rocks and other hazards may be different than what you remember.

If there’s a current, officials said don’t count on being able to grab your paddle board if you fall in because it can easily drift away. Plus, the water is still at 51 degrees – a serious shock to anyone.

“Your body, just like anything else cold, you’re going to gasp. And if you do that under water, you could take water into your lungs and that could immediately lead to a very bad situation.”

Bob Rueter owns Gorge Performance sporting goods in Portland. He not only sells and rents stand up paddle boards, but he’s been enjoying the sport himself for 10 years.

Rueter said he never leaves dry land without a life jacket. He advises customers to adopt the same habit, but he said some people just make bad choices.

“We do lessons, we advise them to wear the life jacket, we have a leash,” Rueter explained. “So we provide all those things and instruct them how to use it. But whether they do or don’t. You know, that’s too bad if they don’t.”

Deputies said Vo Dang just moved to Portland. On Monday afternoon, they finally found her relatives in Connecticut and informed them of her death.

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