May 12, 2023 - News

Stay safe on the water this weekend and beyond

Illustration of a caution sign on an inner tube floating on the water.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

With hot weather on tap for this weekend, Puget Sound residents are likely to head for their favorite body of water. One thing they shouldn't forget: a life jacket.

Driving the news: Even when temps peak, the water remains icy cold especially in lakes, rivers and streams fed by snowmelt, according to the Washington State Parks Recreational Boating Safety Program, which ramps up its water safety message every year in May.

  • Even strong swimmers can be hijacked by "cold water shock" that can cause involuntary physical reactions such as gasping, hyperventilation and panic — which may lead to water inhalation and drowning, the experts said.

What they're saying: "If I could stand on Mount Rainier and yell one thing, it would be 'Wear a life jacket!'" Rob Sendak, with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the boating safety program, told Axios.

By the numbers: In Washington, 18 people died in water accidents last year, Sendak said, and 83% of those fatalities were not wearing a life jacket.

  • 55% of the accidents occurred on human-powered watercraft.
  • Five fatalities were confirmed to have involved alcohol or drugs.
  • The oldest victim was 77 and the youngest was 6.

Be smart: Before you go, check current water temperatures and weather conditions and review basic safety recommendations.


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