COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – In the last week, two people have been pulled from the Chattahoochee River in near-drowning incidents. As the river reaches its busiest season, Columbus Fire & EMS is stepping up their water safety training. The team is taking advantage of the warm weather and longer days to actively train on the river once a month, in preparation for the influx of calls that come with the summer months.
The summer months are the busiest for river tourism. And as people underestimate the strong currents of the Chattahoochee River, rescue teams are keeping a close eye on the water. Experts warn against taking on the Chattahoochee without proper guides or training. They say the river will win every single time and has taken lives.
“They don’t, they don’t really understand the strength of the current and they underestimate it. And it’s just it’s tragic, but it happens every year.”SOT: Lt. Chase Kinsman – Columbus Fire & EMS, Dive and Water Rescue Team
The tides of the Chattahoochee River are constantly and drastically changing as water at the gates of the dam are opened and closed. That unpredictability has led to many of the Dive Teams Rescues.
“The most common call we get is somebody goes out there when the water is low and they can walk out to different rocks or different kind of like Rock Islands out there and they go fishing and then they sound the alarm when they open the floodgates.”Lt. Chase Kinsman – Columbus Fire & EMS, Dive and Water Rescue Team
Columbus and Phenix City teamed up to implement signage and floodgate sirens to give warnings, but it’s only a matter of minutes before it’s too late.
“They don’t make it back in time. So they get surrounded by water and they’re trapped out there. We have to go get them off the rocks.”Lt. Chase Kinsman – Columbus Fire & EMS, Dive and Water Rescue Team
The Dive and Rescue team are prepared with 2 jet skis, multiple boats and a full team ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Although it’s beautiful to look at, its paramount people acknowledge the strength behind Chattahoochee River. Georgia and Alabama state law mandate anyone under 13 wear a life vest while on board any moving vessel. This does not include swimming but experts recommend wearing a life vest if you plan to take on the river in any capacity.