Early season boating deaths prompt warning

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A spike in fatal accidents prompted a safety warning Tuesday from Utah State Parks administrators. They say tragedies can be easy to prevent if families take a few measures to Stay Safe.

Before they launch for the first outing of the summer this weekend, the Evans family had their boat inspected. They checked for all the safety gear, vests and fire extinguishers, because they're not taking any chances.

"You have to be very aware of what's going on. We've seen boats swamped and sunk because people haven't been smart about getting off the lake," Jeanette Evans said.

She expects the usual complaints when she requires her kids to always use a flag. "You're out there all by yourself and the kids are like, ‘Mom, we feel stupid. We're out here holding the flag and nobody's around.' But you've gotta do that so that people, if they come up on you, they know that's out there," she said.

**All boats used on Utah's waterways must carry basic safety equipment, which includes:** - A properly sized U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board. It's the law for everyone 12 and under, those boating on a river, riding on a personal watercraft and being towed behind a vessel. - Bucket or bilge pump - A spare paddle, oar or extra motor - Horn or whistle - Marine approved, fire extinguisher for motorboats with gasoline or diesel engines - At least one throwable life preserver on board boats 16 feet or longer - Navigation lights for operation between sunset and sunrise
Boating coordinators for Utah's state parks want more Utah families to develop safety plans so they can turn around what's been a discouraging start to the boating season. Already, a handful of people have died in the Lake Powell area. Coordinators say all those deaths could have been prevented by wearing life jackets.

"Take into account the people on your boat and remember, ‘Wear it, Utah,'" said Chris Haller, assistant boating program manager for Utah State Parks. ‘Wear it, Utah' is the new life vest campaign.

Haller also recommends having lifesaver rings accessible in case someone falls overboard. "The operator can throw that out to a person in the water, hopefully save their life, and be able to retrieve them in a short amount of time," he said.

Utah State Parks offers a free home study safety course program. Once you pass the course, you may qualify for lower insurance premiums.

"Safety is our number one concern," said Utah State Parks Boating Coordinator Dave Harris. "We encourage boaters to take a safety course, be prepared and always wear a life jacket. Most boating fatalities can be prevented by wearing life jackets."

Last year 50 percent of Utah's boating fatality victims would have most likely survived if they had worn life jackets. This year, likely all victims would have survived had they worn life jackets.

Rangers say visitors should familiarize themselves with Utah boating laws and rules, carry all proper equipment, watch weather conditions and hazards, file float plans, and wear life jackets.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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Nadine Wimmer


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