Coast Guard urges safety after accidents claim lives

Pacific Northwest Coast Guard NewsKENNEWICK, Wash. — The Coast Guard is emphasizing the importance of safe boating in the wake of two recreational boating accidents with the loss of one life on the Columbia and Snake Rivers near Tri-Cities, Wash., along with a shoreline drowning at Casey Pond near Kennewick, Wash., that all happened over the past five days.

Coast Guard Sector Columbia River’s Aids to Navigation Team in Kennewick, Wash., the Walla Walla Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, Washington State Fish and Wildlife and several good Samaritans responded to a report of five people in the water in the Snake River near Hood Park in Burbank, Wash., June 24 after their 14-foot vessel sank. Four of the five people who entered the water were able to swim to shore. Unfortunately, the 14-year-old boy remains un-located. None of the people who entered the water were reported to be wearing life jackets. Whether alcohol was a factor in the incident is still under investigation.

The Benton County, Wash., Sheriff’s Department responded to a separate incident June 24 after a pontoon boat carrying five people struck a navigation structure and capsized in a section of the Columbia River known as Lake Wallula, near Goat Island, in Benton County.  None of those on board were wearing life jackets. Thanks to the actions and preparedness of nearby good Samaritan boaters who had PFDs and throwable floatation devices aboard their vessels, all five people who entered the water made it to safety.

Walla Walla officers also responded Wednesday to the drowning of a 12-year-old boy who slipped into deep water while walking along the shoreline at Casey Pond. The child was not wearing a lifejacket and could not swim.

The Coast Guard cannot stress enough the importance of safety while on and around the water:

  • Wear a personal floatation device/life jacket at all times. The law states you must have a PFD for every person on board, but the Coast Guard suggests you go one step further and wear your PFD at all times when boating. It is much more difficult to locate, access, or don a PFD at the moment the accident occurs.
  • DO NOT boat under the influence of alcohol. Operating a vessel under the influence is no different than driving a car while impaired. Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Factor in boat motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray and a drinker’s impairment is accelerated.

Sector Columbia River Commander, Capt. Bruce Jones stated “No one plans to capsize or fall overboard. However, it can happen in an instant to even the most experienced boaters. Alcohol use increases the chance of an accident, and failure to wear a lifejacket at all times increases the chances of dying after entering the water. This is particularly true in the case of water as cold and swift as the Columbia River.”

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