Group gives reminder about water safety ahead of holiday - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Group gives reminder about water safety ahead of holiday

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The water will be a hot spot to cool down the next several days, which is why Tuesday, everyone was given a reminder about safety.

A group came together at Phoenix Park to spread that message.

Eau Claire YMCA Aquatic Director, Becky Adamski, says, "Hearing a death or a search on the river is just heartbreaking and we know that it's preventable."

"Even one or two a year, which is about the average, is one or two too many," Says Mike Laska, with the Eau Claire Fire Department.  

Police say 22 people have died in the water in Eau Claire in the last ten years.

Laska says, "With our recent college student who went into the river late spring, he makes it number 22."

Ahead of the 4th of July, representatives from the Eau Claire Fire Department, YMCA, DNR, and Xcel Energy stopped at Phoenix Park Tuesday to share a word of warning. 

Bill Yearman, the Recreational Safety Warden, for the DNR, says, "People tend to overestimate their ability, so I'm a good swimmer, that certainly helps but if you hit your head on the way over, or there is some other complication, like extremely cold water. A lot of times you're not able to swim out of it."

Law enforcement says if it could pinpoint the main contributing factors in water fatalities, it would be not wearing a life jacket, and alcohol.

Laska says, "You need to play it safe, you need to have your life vest, you need to watch what you're doing, you need to not drink and boat while you're out there, especially when you're the driver. You need to stay sober so you know what's going on with conditions."

Adamski says she, along with others, teach about 3,000 people how to swim in a year. 

"Within that we have gotten, this past year, a large number of adult swimmers, probably from 18 to 60 and beyond. People are coming to us who are adults who are still feeling uneasy about boating or swimming with their children and they want to come and learn," says Adamski.  

Yearman says, "We want people to go out and have fun. We want people to enjoy themselves and enjoy our lakes and rivers, but we also want them to be safe and use a little common sense and come home safely."

We all know the importance of swim lessons if you like to spend time at the pool or in the lake, but emergency crews have told us for years that when it comes to the Chippewa River, it may not matter if you know how to swim. The river is that dangerous.

As part of the safety effort, there are now two life jacket loaner boards in Eau Claire County. You can find them at the Riverview and Altoona Boat landings.

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