5 new water related deaths reported last week in Colorado; Not all water deaths involve boating

paddle boarders on Pueblo Reservoir
paddle boarders on Pueblo Reservoir(KKTV)
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 5:56 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - An alarming trend shows water related deaths are rising on Colorado’s lakes, reservoirs, and rivers... but not all of those happen while boating.

Parks and Wildlife officers say, a handful of drownings every year often include shore fishermen, paddle boarders, and people doing other activities near the water.

“A lot of these drowning deaths, people weren’t necessarily on a boat,” says Colorado Parks and Wildlife Public Information Officer Joey Livingston. “They were just on the shoreline, fishing for example, so we really want to stress the importance of wearing a life jacket even if you’re just near the water because if you fall in, cold water shock sets in and we have some very steep banks that you can fall down and not be able to stand up and swim out of.”

The agency says, the number of water-related deaths rose by 5 last week to 18 total in 2022. 11 News has learned 14 of those are drownings, 13 confirmed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and 1 by the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office. The other four water-related deaths are still being investigated.

One of the 5 deaths reported last week happened in Pitkin County. Employees with the coroner’s office there tell 11 News, a man was standing on a ridge high above the Roaring Fork River and it appears he accidentally fell in. His body was recovered with severe head injuries and his death is deemed a drowning.

Another of the 5 newly reported deaths happened in Mesa County. According to Mesa County Coroner Victor Yahn, a woman was paddle boarding on the Colorado River, not wearing a life jacket. Her body was recovered from the river and the coroner’s office is awaiting results of a toxicology report before determining a cause of death.

Parks and wildlife officers say this is a good time to remind people that life jackets are required on paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and all water vessels-- not just boats.

According to state law, children 12 and younger must wear U.S. Coast Guard certified life jackets at all times. People 13 and older must have a life jacket on the vessel that is accessible. Wildlife officer Joe Stadterman told 11 News Reporter Melissa Henry, he recommends everyone wear a life jacket at all times on or near the water, regardless of their age or the activity they’re doing. He says many paddle boarders choose to tie their life vests to their board with a rope, which is legally accepted.

He adds, life jackets are not legally required by are recommended for shore fishermen.

At 14 confirmed drownings thus far in 2022, the year is shaping up to break Colorado’s annual drownings record. In 2020, 34 drownings were recorded. That’s the most ever for a year in recorded state history. As of father’s day week 2020, there were 9 drownings. As of father’s day week 2022, 13 drownings were confirmed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“It’s just important to make sure we’re spreading the message as much as possible about the importance of wearing life jackets when you are on or near the water, " Livingston added.

For more information on Colorado’s boating laws and safety standards, click here.

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