Experts stress water safety for 4th of July weekend - WRBL

Experts stress water safety for 4th of July weekend

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Whitewater Express ensures safety among passengers with life jackets and helmets Whitewater Express ensures safety among passengers with life jackets and helmets
Life jackets are required on the Chattahoochee, even if you are in a boat Life jackets are required on the Chattahoochee, even if you are in a boat
Paddleboarders are required to wear life jackets Paddleboarders are required to wear life jackets
Families should be especially cautious of children in the water, making sure they wear life jackets Families should be especially cautious of children in the water, making sure they wear life jackets
This 4th of July weekend, many of you may be heading out to spend time with your family on the Chattahoochee River. After a teenager drowned in the river while trying to escape from police, however, water experts are stressing the importance of safety.

A Columbus city ordinance states that no matter if you are fishing, rafting, kayaking or swimming in the river, you must wear a life jacket. Whitewater Express takes things a step further, requiring their passengers to wear a helmet, too.

Whitewater Express Columbus's Director of Operations Lucas Brown says, "That life jacket is what keeps them afloat if they were to fall out. Helmets are necessary because the rocks are pretty hard out there, the water is swift, so you don't want to be floating down the river, you don't want to be in the river at all without a life jacket and a helmet on."

No one monitors the general public, but the Columbus EMS water rescue team says they're prepared to respond in case people don't practice safety first. Capt. Brent Morris says, "Normally we get calls when people try to go down on their own in a raft or an inner tube or something like that, or they're just in the water swimming because they're not wearing a life jacket. A lot of times they can't swim or may be under the influence, and unfortunately a lot of times, drown."

Kayaker Herbert "Avi" Avellaneda adds, "The water here, it hits so fast sometimes, that you don't even know, whether it be you trip, you fall in. It's nice to know you have that second device."

Authorities say it is especially important to look out for your kids' safety. "It's very scary because it's very slippery when the water goes down," says Morris. "The rocks are very slippery and a child can easily slip off into the water and if they don't know how to swim they can go down and be gone that quick."

While the EMS team may not be a constant presence on the river, Whitewater Express is always on the lookout for emergencies, too. Brown says, "We have a safety set out on the river at all times. Our priority is guests, but if we see general public out there that need help, we're here to help as well."

Whitewater Express expects to host about 1,000 people this holiday, one of their biggest weekends on record. If you want to take a trip with them, they suggest you call ahead to make sure you get a spot.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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