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Summer water fun not complete without life jackets, health officials warn

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 24, 2024

ROBERT JOHNSON, Standard-Examiner file photo

Boaters enjoy Pineview Reservoir in the Ogden Valley on June 22, 2008.

Summer is just around the corner, and for thousands of Utahns, that means heading to the water.

And while health care workers are all for swimming, water skiing and rafting, they are strongly encouraging the public to exercise caution in and around the water.

“Drowning is the second-leading cause of preventable injury death for Utah children under the age of 14, with 70% of drowning deaths happening between May and August,” said Dr. Wing Province, chief medical officer and emergency medicine physician at Intermountain Park City Hospital.

About one-third of drownings in the state happen in lakes, rivers, canals and other bodies of water, according to the Utah Department of Health & Human Services. Most drownings could have been prevented if a life jacket had been worn.

On Wednesday, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital announced it will donate 900 life jackets to life jacket loaner stations across Utah to help prevent such tragedies and keep families safe. The life jackets, which come in various child and adult sizes, will be available to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis and are required to be returned at the end of the day.

“The goals for the Life Jacket Loaner Program are to make life jackets more available and increase the wearing of life jackets during water-based activities,” said Karlee Kump, community health manager at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

In 2022, Utah resident Danielle Bradshaw was rafting with her daughters, ages 2 and 5, when they flipped over, sending them plunging into the water. Bystanders were able to retrieve the girls to safety, but Danielle was struggling to stay afloat.

By the time her son pulled her to safety, she had gone into cardiac arrest.

Lance Bradshaw was on his way to meet the family with life jackets when he received a call from his 10-year-old daughter telling him his wife had drowned and was no longer breathing. Fortunately, an off-duty officer was at the scene and began performing CPR.

“There’s no way to repay those who didn’t hesitate to step in and save us,” Danielle Bradshaw said. “I realize now it’s always better to be safe and cautious than to be sorry.”

The Bradshaws said they wish a life jacket loaning service had been available for them that day.

“The reality is you always want to be prepared for whatever might happen,” Lance Bradshaw said. “Everyone should get in a habit of wearing a life jacket, even in shallow water.”

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital health experts are offering the following tips on water safety:

  • The best prevention comes from a Coast Guard-approved jacket and appropriate adult supervision.
  • Appoint a water watcher to supervise children without distraction. Take shifts and create a visual cue, like a lanyard or silly hat, so everyone knows who is watching.
  • Fully drain kiddy pools and buckets and turn them upside down when not in use.
  • Make sure the whole family learns how to swim.
  • Have children wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets instead of water wings, which can deflate or fall off.
  • Teach children to stay away from water while hiking or camping.
  • If a child is missing, always check nearby water first.
  • If a child falls into rushing water, call 911. Don’t jump in after them.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Solo swimming is never a good idea.
  • Alcohol and swimming don’t mix.
  • Have something to throw to someone to help them float to safety.
  • Know your surroundings. The lakes are still very cold and can affect swimmers with dangerous cramps, shock, hypothermia and difficulty breathing.

For more information about child safety and injury prevention, go to primarychildrens.org/safety.


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