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Current events yield swim safety cautions

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

July 1, 2006

Following several reports of swimmers in difficulty at the Hood River waterfront, both the port and sheriff’s office have advised people to use caution at the waterfront during the holiday weekend.

Deputy Jerry Brown confirmed that the sheriff’s office responded both Monday and Tuesday to reports of people in trouble in the Columbia River.

Several 9-1-1 calls Tuesday night reported three people in the water off the sandbar and unable to swim.

Brown said the sheriff’s response resulted in the transport of a 36-year-old woman to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“In light of the fact that five people drowned across Oregon this past weekend, we are urging people to use flotation devices when swimming in the river,” he said.

He advised parents to keep an eye on their children as well as use caution when swimming at the marina beach on the waterfront.

The incidents took place during the past week at the confluence of the Hood River and Columbia River, where currents are strongest due to higher water this year in the river, creating stronger river currents. Swimmers are being advised to use caution until water levels recede.

The port has posted signs to warn swimmers of the potential dangers. They also issued a swim warning Wednesday that illegal activities at the Hood River waterfront could result in a fine of up to $250 and possible removal from the port’s property for the season.

This is in response to the ongoing problem of people jumping and diving off the cruise ship dock next to the Nichols Boat Basin and Hood River Event Site. No public water access is legal from this dock.

The port issued a press release stating the cruise ship dock was not designed for swimmers as it is a dangerous place to swim because of ship traffic, submerged rocks and pilings near the shoreline and the dock’s height.

Brown said the sheriff’s marine deputy and the port maintenance officer examined the site on Tuesday.

“The problem is, people continue to tear signs down and to rip hasps off to gain access,” he said.

The Oregon State Marine Board has also joined the call for children to wear life jackets when wading near rivers and lakes.

“Drowning is the second leading cause of fatalities, and we’ve already lost several children and adults this year,’ said Ashley Massey, public affairs specialist for the board.

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