Friday, June 30, 2006

River Wild

The annual 4th of July warning about staying safe on the river, which is running fast, cold and relatively high.

An excerpt.

River's revelers urged to play it safe on 4th
Wear life jackets, drink responsibly, safety officials warn American River partiers

By David Richie -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:01 am PDT Friday, June 30, 2006

Local public safety officials hope to halt a disturbing series of drownings by urging Fourth of July revelers to wear life jackets, cut down on their drinking and use their heads -- especially if they are floating down the American River or boating on any other open water.

Last year approximately 42 drownings were recorded in Sacramento region rivers, lakes, pools and ponds, said Fire Capt. Jeff Lynch, spokesman for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.
"This year, so far, we have had 24," Lynch said. "That may sound like we are just at the halfway point, but it is alarming. The swimming season is just beginning."

Adding to the concern is the higher number of near-drownings, which can result in serious long-term complications. Medical personnel cite brain damage as the most severe result of a loss of oxygen to the brain. Near-drowning victims can also develop respiratory illnesses when water enters the lungs, which can vary in severity and sometimes lead to death.

"For every drowning, you have three to five near-drownings," Lynch said.

An estimated 10,000 people will hit the river each day leading up to the Fourth. Many will be underage and under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

The fire district is tackling the problem at the river's edge with its "Operation River Safe."

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, volunteers will be stationed on both sides of the American River just downstream from Sunrise Boulevard, one of the most popular launching spots for rafters and tubers.

The volunteers will be offering loaner life jackets of all sizes and in several styles. They will assist each person to make sure each life jacket fits properly and comfortably, Lynch said.

Later in the day volunteers will move downstream to collect life jackets at Goethe Park and the Harrington Way river access area. Rafters going farther can turn their loaner life jackets in at any fire station, Lynch said.