Near-drowning in Ridgeway highlights need for personal flotation devices

A paddle boarder and kayaker enjoy the water. CPW is reminding people to wear personal flotation devices that properly fit, after a man nearly drowned in Ridgway Reservoir last week.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are reminding the public to wear life vests when recreating on Ridgway Reservoir and other state waterways, following a near-drowning on the lake June 13.

CPW said in a Tuesday news release that the man, who was not wearing a personal flotation device, or PFD, fell from his paddleboard when wind kicked up the water.

Park rangers were able to save the man. His wife, who was wearing a life jacket, also fell off her board, but was able to swim ashore.

“So many people see paddle boards as low risk; but if you fall off your board into cold water you can get into trouble very quickly,” Kirstin Copeland, manager at Ridgway State Park, said in the news release.

The June 13 incident follows incidents last year, when other paddleboarders had to be rescued. That year, four adults, not wearing life jackets, fell off their boards. Two juveniles, who were wearing adult-sized life jackets, also were rescued. Their personal flotation devices did not properly fit them and so, were of little help.

On rivers or reservoirs, if a paddleboarder falls off there is no guarantee that the board will remain within reach. In rivers, the board can be pulled away by the current. In lakes a board can be pushed away quickly by the wind.

The danger is amplified on reservoirs and ponds in the afternoons in Colorado when fast-moving storms bring high winds and stir up waves.

Water temperature is also a factor; even though the weather has been hot recently, water in rivers and reservoirs remain in the 50-degree range which will quickly impair swimming ability.

According to CPW regulations, on any watercraft the number of life jackets on board must match the number of passengers.

Anyone 13 years of younger when on the water, must wear a life jacket at all times. Every kind of craft is subject to the regulations, including paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and sailboards.

“Anything can happen at any time on the water, so we urge people to be cautious and consider their own and their loved one’s safety while they’re enjoying the water,” Copeland said. “Please, wear your PFD.”

For more information about safe boating, go to: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/BoatingSafety.aspx.

Information from a news release by Joe Lewandowski, CPW spokesman in the Southwest District, based in Durango.

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