WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – With unusual amounts of drownings and other water-related accidents taking place across the state, you may wonder what it takes to rescue someone in need. Weber County officials answer that question while also asking the public to follow simple precautions while out on Utah lakes.
Every summer, Weber County officials put on some shorts, hop in a boat, and practice crucial life saving skills at Pineview Reservoir. However, this year the training feels more important than ever.
“It’s been a little bit more busy as far as traumatic incidents and then drownings,” stated Weber Fire District Cpt. Oliver Cummings.
This summer, two people have died and another is in critical condition from different accidents at Pineview alone. Officials say until just a few weeks ago, there had been no drownings at the reservoir since 2017.
County officials work tirelessly every summer to keep recreators safe, but there’s a new-found sense of urgency.
“We have two marine boats that are out on the water,” Weber County Sheriff’s Officer Lt. Cortney Ryan told ABC4. “Usually, (there are) two deputies on a boat going all day long, plus then we have officers — about eight officers — working in the area along the beaches.”
Even with officers close by, water rescues are challenging. “It does take us a little bit just to get here and unload our gear,” explained Cpt. Cummings. “And then from there, we also have to take a boat to the patient if they’re on the water.”
Officials told ABC4 that 20,000 to 30,000 people are visiting the area every weekend, which makes it hard to locate someone when an accident happens.
They’re asking everyone to follow simple precautions to help prevent future accidents and drownings.
“Be safe,” Lt. Ryan stated. “Plan. Be sure you plan. Keep yourself hydrated, keep yourself within your limits, don’t get out too far and start.”
Lt. Ryan emphasized the importance of always having a life jacket on hand. He said a good rule of thumb is to wear one in water that is chest deep or deeper. Along with wearing a life jacket, he said all recreators need to know the different life jacket laws before going out to a lake.
For instance, most paddleboarders don’t wear a life jacket. He said that is fine. However, the law requires you to have one on the board in case of an emergency.
Cpt. Cummings agreed that everyone should use a life jacket out on the lake. He also agreed that a person should know his or her limits when it comes to boating and swimming. He said many times, victims are good swimmers but don’t realize how different swimming in open water can be.
“Swimming on the water out here is going to be a lot different than a pool,” he added. “You have waves, and wind, and heat that are going to contribute to difficulty of swimming.”
Officials told ABC4 nearly all drownings they’ve personally responded to could have been avoided with the use of a life jacket.