EUGENE, Ore. — Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to BBQ at one of the parks by the Willamette River. But if you plan on getting in the water, it can be dangerous if you’re not careful.
The fire department is warning visitors about the dangers of drowning.
“Water is very unforgiving, and you can be under the water in seconds,” said Batt. Chief Leldon Little, Springfield Fire Department.
In the choppy and freezing Willamette River, rescue crews practiced water safety techniques to prepare for the Memorial Day weekend.
“One of the things we find is that people really underestimate the power of water and the temperature of the water,” Little said.
The CDC says drowning is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. In Oregon, there were about 52 unintentional drownings last year, so experts are stressing the importance of wearing a life jacket.
“If they have a life jacket on, that helps immensely. Unfortunately, a lot of times they don’t. They’ll have a life jacket with them and not wearing them, and tragically there are a lot of fatalities that happen because people aren’t wearing their life jackets,” Little said.
Two weeks ago, crews had to rescue several people whose boat sank just above Beltline Highway. There were eight life jackets on the boat, but not one person was wearing one. No one was hurt, but the fire department says that’s not always the case.
“Not very often do we get people floating in the water. Usually, unfortunately, they’re stuck on a stream without a life jacket or a recovery. Sometimes when we get there people have passed away,” Little said.
The water is also very cold, in the 40s. You can reduce your risk of hypothermia by wearing a body suit. But again, the fire department is stressing that wearing a life jacket will greatly increase your chances of survival.