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Tue, Oct. 22

Life jackets can and will save your life IF you use them

Water safety should be the most important aspect of your summer boating activities. Above, Kara Jensen and Marsha Sue wearing life jackets at Lake Mead. (Photo special to the Miner)

Water safety should be the most important aspect of your summer boating activities. Above, Kara Jensen and Marsha Sue wearing life jackets at Lake Mead. (Photo special to the Miner)

With this crazy spring weather about to end, many local boaters and anglers will be once again taking to the water of our local lakes on the Colorado River.

Most will go fishing, but there are pleasure boaters and folks who ride single- or double-seated watercraft like jet skis that are going to be out there.

The main connection is that we are all on the water.

Water safety should be the most important aspect of your summer boating activities. It doesn’t take long for a pleasure trip to turn into a life threatening situation.

All of this is near and dear to me. As you may recall on July 26 last year, I was out on a night-time fishing trip with Kingman residents George Robledo and Claire Whitley.

We were fishing in Virgin Canyon when a sudden and violent monsoon type storm moved in. As a result, the boat we were riding in got swamped and sank. We ended up in the water for over eight hours.

The only reason we all survived that harrowing, life-threatening ordeal was because the first thing I did before we started to leave our fishing spot was ensure everyone in the boat had a life jacket on that was fitted for them.

My personal policy has always been that no one gets on my boats without a properly fitted life jacket on them. When the main engine is on, everyone MUST be wearing their life jacket. No exceptions. And while the loss of the boat was regrettable, the fact that no one drowned that night proved that the most important thing that happened was we were all wearing properly-sized and fitted life jackets and kept calm.

So with that caveat, here is some information that you may find useful.

Before you head out on the water, check and make sure the life jackets you have on your watercraft are in good condition with no rips or tears. It is state law that the life jackets you have for ALL the passengers must be the right size and fit the person who will be using them. And they must be free of tears, rips, missing straps or broken fasteners.

In Arizona, persons 12-years-and-under must wear a life jacket or personal flotation device while on board a vessel. Though not required for adults, it is a good policy to make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket or PFD when the main engine is on. Life jackets must be a type approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Personally, I use Type 3 life jackets. Most boats are also required to have a throwable cushion on board and a working fire extinguisher.

Make sure your life jackets are in a place where they can be easily reached. In a situation like we had last summer, there would not have been time to put on a PFD before they were needed. By putting the PFDs on before we moved, it saved our lives.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2017.

In 2017, in almost 85% of the reported drowning incidents, the victims were NOT wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device.

In Arizona last year, there were 11 boating-related fatalities. There has already been a boating fatality this year, a case where a kayaker was not wearing a PFD.

As you can see, death by drowning on the state’s waterways can be prevented by just wearing a life jacket or PFD.

I hope we all have a safe and enjoyable time on the water this year. Take the time to have you and your passengers put on a life jacket or PFD every time you go out, no matter the weather.

In a water emergency that can occur quickly, they can and will save your life.

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