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Weber County officials put focus on water safety at Pineview after near drowning

By Tim Vandenack standard-Examiner - | Jun 28, 2021
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Weber County Sheriff's Office Deputy Nathan Zaugg, left, and Lt. Cortney Ryan participate in a press conference about water safety on Monday, June 28, 2021, at Pineview Reservoir. Sheriff's Office and Weber Fire District reps held a joint safety exercise at the reservoir.

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Weber Fire District Capt. Oliver Cummings participates in a press conference about water safety on Monday, June 28, 2021, at Pineview Reservoir. Weber County Sheriff's Office and Weber Fire District reps held a joint safety exercise at the reservoir.

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Weber Fire District Assistant Fire Warden/Engineer Barry Lock, right, and Weber County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kyle Slater, on the boat, are pictured at Pineview Reservoir on Monday, June 28, 2021. Weber County Sheriff's Office and Weber Fire District reps held a joint safety exercise at the reservoir.

HUNTSVILLE — After a near drowning on Sunday at Pineview Reservoir and two apparent drowning deaths at the lake dating to mid-May, officials are bracing.

“We’re not into July and this is a scary year,” Capt. Oliver Cummings of the Weber Fire District said Monday. The two deaths, on May 15 and June 20, were the first drownings at Pineview since 2017.

They’re also putting a call out to the public — if you’re going to spend time at the lake, be safe. Bring life jackets and use them. Know your limitations as a swimmer and as a boater.

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner

Weber Fire District Capt. Oliver Cummings participates in a press conference about water safety on Monday, June 28, 2021, at Pineview Reservoir. Weber County Sheriff’s Office and Weber Fire District reps held a joint safety exercise at the reservoir.

The message is particularly germane this year — visitation to Pineview, a big draw for weekend recreation, has been strong. With the water level at the reservoir so low due to the ongoing drought, there’s more room for swimmers and visitors to spread out, which has served as a lure. With more people, the odds of an incident go up, said Barry Lock, an assistant fire warden/engineer with the Weber Fire District.

At the same time, with the lower water level, there’s less area for the many boats, jet skis and other watercraft on Pineview, raising the risk of an accident. “Everybody can’t spread out so much,” said Lock.

Monday’s call to the public — ahead of a joint water-rescue training exercise involving fire district and Weber County Sheriff’s Office representatives — came a day after a near drowning on Sunday at Pineview involving a 25-year-old man who was trying to help his brother. The brother, who had disappeared under the water, was located and pulled out, but then the 25-year-old man went under and other beachgoers turned their attention to him.

After 10 minutes, the bystanders located the 25-year-old and pulled him from the water, said a statement from the sheriff’s office. “First responders were able to get a pulse and the victim was airlifted to a local hospital where he is in critical condition,” said the sheriff’s office statement.

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner

Weber Fire District Assistant Fire Warden/Engineer Barry Lock, left, and Weber County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kyle Slater maneuver a sheriff’s office boat on Monday, June 28, 2021, at Pineview Reservoir. Weber County Sheriff’s Office and Weber Fire District reps held a joint safety exercise at the reservoir.

In the June 20 incident, a 37-year-old man drowned after swimming out to his son, who was using a flotation device in the reservoir. “A bystander was able to get out to the child, but they were unable to find the adult who went under the water,” said a statement at the time.

In light of such incidents, part of the messaging Monday was about proper procedure when aiding others who are struggling in the water. Lt. Cortney Ryan of the sheriff’s office understands the urge to help in such instances. “We’re not going to sit back and watch someone drown,” he said.

But those entering the water to help should first shout out to someone to call for first responders. Then, put on a life jacket before swimming out to help.

Here are some of the other messages Monday:

Swimmers should know their limitations and parents should keep close tabs on their young children when visiting Pineview. Heat, waves and wind can make swimming at Pineview more precarious than at a swimming pool, and the reservoir has a steep drop off that can add to the danger, Cummings said.

Ryan recommends use of a life jacket, particularly if you’re spending time in water that’s chest deep or deeper.

Operators of boats and jet skis, too, need to know their limitations and keep their speeds down if they have limited experience, said Cummings.

There have been at least two incidents involving jet skis this year at Pineview, neither of them deadly. In one incident on June 5, two passengers on a jet ski were thrown from the craft while jumping waves and one of them sustained injuries and had to be transported via helicopter for help. In the other incident, two jet skis collided, according to Cummings.

At Pineview, jet ski operators and kids 12 and under on boats must wear life jackets. Paddleboarders need to have life jackets with them. Beachgoers aren’t required to use life jackets, though Ryan strongly recommends their use. At Causey Reservoir to the west, anyone getting in the water must use a life jacket.

Ryan estimates that Pineview and the rest of the Ogden Valley draw 20,000 to 30,000 visitors per weekend, underscoring the importance of safety. July 4, quickly coming up, typically draws particularly large crowds each year.

As part of Monday’s joint water-rescue exercises, which had been planned before Sunday’s near drowning, Weber County Sheriff’s Office and Weber Fire District reps were to respond to a mock incident in the water, the collision of a boat and a jet ski. The exercises, held each year, will continue into the week. Both the sheriff’s office and fire district respond to incidents at Pineview. The sheriff’s office has two boats for patrolling the reservoir.

In the other suspected drowning death at Pineview this year, a 61-year old man was found facedown in the water on May 15 near the Port Ramp area on the west side of Pineview. The last suspected drowning death at Pineview before that was in 2017, when the body of a 44-year-old man was found floating, also in the Port Ramp area.

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