SOUTH CHARLESTON W.Va. — Operation Life Jacket from the state Division of Natural Resources is in effect this week with the goal of promoting water safety and preventing water accidents by encouraging people to take safety precautions during recreation in natural bodies of water.
The DNR reported five water related deaths in June, DNR Police Sgt. Jerry Payne said.
“State law says that 12 and under has to wear a life jacket,” Payne said. “So we’re looking for that, we’re looking for a large amount of people on a boat, making sure they have enough life jackets that are tied to the people that are on the boat.”
About one in five people who die from drowning are children ages 14 and younger, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
“We’ve had several drownings where people weren’t on the boat,” said Payne. “Maybe they were in the water swimming. That’s something people need to consider. That water has current or maybe you’re not as strong a swimmer as you think. When you’re in the swimming pool you’re great but when you get in the river you might not be near as great.”
Statistics from the CDC show approximately 3,500 non-boat related drownings in the U.S. between 2005-2009.
“You have people that maybe wade and fish and you could wear one of the light weight jackets just for the case that maybe you step in a spot that is over your head. And that’s going to save you.” said Payne.
Even the strongest of people are vulnerable to accidents, regardless of how well you can swim. Life jackets are here to protect adults just as much as kids.
“It’s still a good idea. Even if it wasn’t the law that you had to wear a seat belt, you would wear one. So even though it’s not a law if you’re over twelve that you have to wear a life jacket, it’s still a good idea to wear one.” said Payne.