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Lifeguards back on water, but life jackets biggest help

By Joelle JonesTim Steele,


TROUTDALE, Ore. (KOIN) — The return of lifeguards at certain Oregon parks is a sure sign of summer. While the lifeguards will undoubtedly help those who need it, small actions like wearing a life jacket and swimming with a friend can help keep you safe no matter where you are.

Lifeguards with American Medical Response are now on duty at Glenn Otto Park in Troutdale through Labor Day. Field Training Officer Zach Green said everyone is excited to do their part for a safe 2023 summer season.

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Zach Green, a Field Training Officer for River Rescue Operation at Glenn Otto Park in Troutdale, May 27, 2023 KOIN)

“The River Rescue Team is really excited to be back at Glen Otto and over at High Rocks this year. You know we love being out here. We love serving the community. And our guards are ready to be here all summer,” Green told KOIN 6 News.

Other safety tips include entering the water feet-first, watching out for children — and staying sober.

“You can end up in a dangerous situation pretty quickly, getting in thinking it’s a lot warmer than you realize and then it kind of shocks you and you can start to struggle swimming very early,” he said. “Also our water levels are still pretty high and this water is still moving pretty quickly. There’s lots of hazards that are under the surface of the water that you might not see when the water level is this high.”

The biggest safety tip is one that is repeated constantly.

“The things that we would ask the public to do to make our lives a little easier and keep you guys safer, biggest one that I can suggest is wearing a life jacket,” Green said.
Loaner life jackets at Dabney State Park in Corbett, May 27, 2023 (KOIN)

The Corbett Fire Department has launched a community fundraiser to install multiple life jacket stands at Dabney State Park and further down the river at Lewis and Clark State Park.

“There’s five lifejacket stands and we have put out close to 500 life jackets,” said Corbett Fire EMT Jasmie Zimmer-Stucky.

The Lebanon Fire District also opened its seasonal life jacket kiosks. The 3 kiosks are at Waterloo North Boat Ramp, Waterloo South Boat Ramp and at Gill’s Landing.
Corbett Fire EMT Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky at Dabney State Park, May 27, 2023 (KOIN)

Zimmer-Stucky said since 2019 there have been 9 drownings on the Sandy River — and 8 of them were not wearing life jackets.

“This river has steep drop offs, the current is faster than it looks, and even experienced swimmers, like myself who was a lifeguard and a firefighter and does a lot of whitewater boating, even I wear a life jacket when I’m on this river with friends and family,” Zimmer-Stucky said.

With increased education and access with the new life jacket program, she said the department hopes they can bring the number of drownings down to zero.
Loaner life jackets at Dabney State Park in Corbett, May 27, 2023 (KOIN)

“As the summer approaches and the temperatures increase, people come to the river as sort of the rite of passage for a Pacific Northwest summer,” she said. “We really hope that the lifejacket program will be utilized by everyone who visits this stretch of river, and we will not have any drownings.”

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