No Recreational Drownings in Sacramento-Area Rivers this Summer, DART Says

SACRAMENTO -- The water recreation season is coming to a close with the end of the Labor Day weekend. It's a relief for water safety officials who saw no recreational drownings on the area's two rivers this summer.

By contrast there were 11 drownings last summer. A beefed up life vest loaner program and public safety messages seemed to have worked as more and more people could be seen using the vests.

"It's a lot different this year," said Diving Accident Rescue Team President Leslie Robinson.

DART volunteers were contracted to staff Tiscornia Park at the tail end of last season, reminding swimmers of the dangers of the current and reminding then about the law requiring children under 13 years old that life vests are mandatory.

Their message wasn't well received. But Robinson says the drownings and reminders apparently sank in this year.

“People are appreciative and grateful we’re down here and much more aware of the laws and the dangers and are very compliant this year," said Robinson.

Angelica Pastrana was rafting with her large extended family. Her kids, nieces and nephews were all wearing vests on Labor Day.

“It’s like buckling a seat belt, you know, it’s the same thing with the water, the raft is just like a seat belts you know," said Pastrana.

While Labor Day marks the end of the water recreation season and the end of DART's contract with the county to staff Tiscornia Park where nine drownings occurred last year, it doesn't mean safety efforts will diminish. Swimmers and rafters will continue to come to the rivers especially since warmer weather is forecast and the danger won't go away.

“As long as it's warm out here, and as long as people are taking advantage of the river and swimming, we’ll still be out here with the life jackets ... making sure people are being safe on the water," said Sacramento County Regional Parks Ranger A.J. Bennett.

Robinson said it's likely DART will be present, as well.

“We also have the understanding that if we have a heat wave they can call us and request that we come down and continue to do what we do, and I anticipate that happening," said Robinson.