Tips for staying safe on the water during warm weather - KPTV - FOX 12

Tips for staying safe on the water during warm weather

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Hagg Lake on Wednesday afternoon. (KPTV) Hagg Lake on Wednesday afternoon. (KPTV)

With this gorgeous weather finally hitting the Portland area, some families are desperate to finally get outside and hit the water.

But that’s what worries experts like Randy Henry.

“We’re going to have some really nice weather. It’s going to be 80 degrees today and tomorrow, people are going to want to get out and it’s those first trips in the spring that makes me nervous because that’s when people get excited and they’re not quite ready and that’s when some tragedies can occur,” Henry said.

Henry is the Boating Safety Program Manager for the Oregon State Marine Board. He was at Hagg Lake Wednesday for training involving roughly 30 new law enforcement recruits who will be joining marine patrol teams.

They learned everything from proper docking to high-speed maneuvers on the water in hopes of keeping people safe this season.

Henry said last year alone, 19 people died in boating accidents across the state and many others were hurt in cases that were largely – if not all – preventable.

“We saw a number of collisions last year where boats simply ran over other boats and there was no reason to. Totally preventable,” he said. "We had some really tragic accidents last year where people literally lost limbs because of those types of collisions.”

That’s why officers on the water this year will be focusing on distracted boaters, which could land you a ticket of $265.

If you’re boating with children it’s also important to remember that kids 12 and under must be wearing a life jacket.

Experts say never take unnecessary risks in rough water or rapids, and if you can’t swim you should stay away from the water.

Remember, water levels are higher than normal in area lakes and rivers which means added debris could be hiding under the water. The temperature is also still very cold and will continue to be as snow melts in the mountains. In many places, the current is also very strong and unpredictable.

At many places, there are also free life jacket loaner stands. They were installed at Hagg Lake after a family of four drowned a few years ago after wading in the water and encountering an unexpected drop-off.

“At this lake there are life jacket stations all over the place. There are free life jackets for use, they’re everywhere, so there’s really no excuse,” Henry added.

So before you head out to enjoy the water, remember to think safety first.

“Virtually all the accidents we saw last year, all the fatalities, were pretty easily preventable,” Henry said. “So that gives me hope that with a little bit of education, a little bit of outreach, we can reduce that number a lot this year.”

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