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Outdoors, Leisure and Sports

Oregon boat fatalities declined last year, but are still historically high

 Fishermen out on Clear Lake, Oregon.
Brian Bull
/
KLCC
Fishermen out on Clear Lake, Oregon.

Boating deaths were down last year, compared to 2020. But they were still high compared to long-term rates.

The Oregon State Marine Board says in 2021, 19 people died in boat-related incidents. That’s less compared to 2020’s recorded number of 26 fatalities. But Randy Henry, the board’s recently retired boating safety program manager, said that’s still too many.

“Historically we have been more in the teens, and even when you go back to the 2000s, we were in the single digits,” Henry told KLCC.

“Think what we’re seeing is a little bit of pandemic on top of a lot of recreational boating activity; they were not prepared, they were not knowledgeable, they did not have the basic safety equipment with them. What we saw this year were a number of double fatalities on some of our coastal waters.”

 A man with canoe navigates the McKenzie River wearing protective gear, including a life vest.
Brian Bull
/
KLCC
A man with canoe navigates the McKenzie River wearing protective gear, including a life vest.

Henry noted one common thread among the fatalities between 2021 and 2020, is a lack of life vests worn by most of the victims. While not a full guarantee of survival in Oregon’s waterways, they certainly help, he added.

Henry says there are a few situations where the vests might not be at full advantage.

“In heavy whitewater, or in situations where there’s debris in the water. So on some river systems, a person may get caught in the limbs of a fallen tree or something like that. And there are some situations where the cold water will simply get to an individual whether it’s hypothermia or cold water shock. That can also lead to fatality.”

But Henry says a vest can keep a person afloat and active enough to rescue themselves, or be rescued.

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