CHICAGO (CBS) — As many head to the water to look for relief from the hot temperatures this weekend, coast guard officials are issuing water safety reminders, stressing the importance of life jackets.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez was on a boat along the Chicago River Thursday as safety officials demonstrated safety measures to take in order to prevent an emergency.
From large tour boats, to smaller private crafts, to rented kayaks, the river was full of action as boaters took to the water to enjoy the summer weather.
Many boaters, however, were not wearing life jackets.
While boat rental companies typically require boaters to wear life jackets, there is not a law that requires individuals to wear life jackets over the age of 12.
A friend of Alberto Lopez shared a video with CBS 2 from Memorial Day Weekend. Just over an hour after boating, he went overboard when his boat hit a wave. Lopez was not wearing a life vest and he drowned.
CBS 2 sat down with Jeffrey Jonsson, Training Petty Officer with the U.S. Coast Guard.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez asked Jonsson, “Why do you think people aren’t getting the message about wearing life jackets?”
He responded, “I think a lot of it is knowledge I grew up on the water, so for me it’s familiarity. They live in the city and they go out for the weekend and they don’t know much about boating. Boating on the water is much more dangerous than driving a car.”
In 2017, 658 boaters died on the nation’s waterways. There were 15 deaths in Illinois. 76% drowned, and of those deaths, more than 84% were not wearing life jackets.
Chief Warrant Officer Matt James with the U.S. Coast Guard said, “When the boat is sinking and you’re scrambling to get a life jacket, it is easy to get?”
Every boat owner is required to have a life jacket for every person aboard their vessel. It’s important to make sure you know where that life jacket is located.