April 1, 2012

Investigations found that two Oregon brothers, both firefighters, did not have access to floating cushions or life jackets during a boating accident that took the younger man’s life. The brothers were in a 10-foot rowboat enjoying some fishing when both stood up to cast their lines and their boat capsized. The tragedy points out how dangerous even a simple boat accident can be.

According to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, the 21-year-old perished on Lake Harriet. The water is exceptionally cold there — Timothy Lake is the main water source, and that lake is fed by glacier runoff.

The victim’s brother, 31, swam part of the way to shore; he was pulled in with his father’s help. Doctors treated him for hypothermia at a nearby medical center and released him that night. The 21-year-old could not swim far and drowned. Authorities recovered his body about 30 feet from the boat; the medical examiner’s office pronounced him dead at the scene.

Oregon boating rules require all vessels to carry one approved personal flotation device for each person on board. Children age 12 and under are required to wear a life vest when the boat is underway. The law does not require adults to wear life jackets, but the state’s boating authority recommends that a device for each adult be close at hand at all times. According to state officials, the vast majority of people who drown in boating accidents would survive if they wore life jackets.

Water temperature also plays a role in drowning. The cold water can make it difficult for someone to breathe and move in order to keep body heat contained. Muscles begin cramping and fatigue hits the body almost immediately, according to a sheriff’s representative.

Source:, “No life jackets found in boating accident that killed Colton firefighter,” Rick Bella, April 2, 2012


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