Officials urging Utahns to review water safety after multiple drownings at reservoirs

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HEBER CITY — A weekend of summer fun on the water turned tragic after three people drowned in Pineview and Deer Creek reservoirs, and a teenager came dangerously close to drowning at Jordanelle Reservoir.

With more people headed to lakes and rivers to stay cool this summer, the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation urged people who are venturing outdoors to stay on guard.

First, if you're going to get on a boat, officials encourage you to wear a life jacket and make sure it's U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Make sure it fits properly and is fastened and secure at all times while you're on a boat.

If you want to beat the crowds at Jordanelle Reservoir, head out early.

On Monday morning, conditions looked good on the water. But Cody Neumann and his friends Morgan and Bill Bartlett knew things can change. "As the traffic on the lake picks up, it gets windy and weighty and a little more turbulent."

Safety is always on their mind.

"Very sad and tough to hear that happened over the weekend, especially so close to home," said Morgan Bartlett.

The group was shook up over the drownings of a father trying to save his son at Pineview Reservoir and a couple from Arizona, who drowned while boating with their adult children.

Then there was a close call at Jordanelle Reservoir. Bystanders rescued a 14-year-old girl who was sharing a pool toy with two others and began slipping under the water.

Officials said none of the victims were wearing a life jacket in these incidents.

"Even experienced swimmers can have accidents when the conditions change abruptly on them," said Neumann.

A day of fun on the water can have mishaps.

Don't get lackadaisical out here. While it's really relaxing, it can potentially turn pretty deadly quickly.

–Cody Neumann

"You raise a flag so that other watercraft in the area knows that there's somebody down to look for them," said Neumann.

And they check off other precautions before launching.

"Safety is first so making sure we have our life jacket, tow rope, our skis, wakeboards," said Bartlett. "Making sure the boat is gassed up and the batteries ready to go."

Neumann said to plan ahead, check weather and water conditions — and a refresher course on safety and swimming can go a long way.

"Don't get lackadaisical out here. While it's really relaxing, it can potentially turn pretty deadly quickly," he said.

Experts also recommended letting someone know where you'll be, what time you expect to get back and any other details about your trip in case of an emergency.

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