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Lifejackets might make the difference between life and death

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With boating season getting into full swing, it’s important for all boaters to insure their own safety by wearing a properly-fitting lifejacket. And new lifejackets aren’t your father’s lifejackets.

It is very sad what happened to the two young Troy men sometime on Saturday, May 3 when they went missing on a canoe trip and drowned in the Ohio River.

The Ohio River is more dangerous than it looks. You can stand on a shore and look out over the river and at times it appears like a large lake, calm and peaceful. But underneath there is a constant current and cold water, especially at this time of year. It was 62 degrees on May 3.

High and cold river water is a recipe for danger. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps nobody ever will, but there is one thing about this drowning incident that puzzles me: why were the two young men not wearing lifejackets?

A lifejacket might not save the life of a person suddenly thrust into cold, moving water, but it should at least give them a fighting chance.

“When a person hits colds water there is an automatic gasp that takes place. If you are wearing a lifejacket, your airway is protected, held above the water and it helps you when you gasp for that breath,” said Eileen Corson of the Ohio Division of Watercraft.

Every boat – or canoe or kayak – that leaves the dock must contain a lifejacket for every person on board.

“Don’t just have your life jacket close by, wear it,” said Gary Obermiller, chief of the Division of Watercraft. “If an accident occurs and you suddenly end up overboard, a life jacket will keep your head above water and could save your life.”

Corson points out that lifejackets – or personal floatation devices – do not have to be the big and bulky jackets that most people picture. There are now several options that include inflatable models that you hardly realize you have on.

Additional information on lifejacket safety is available at watercraft.ohiodnr.gov.

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