Sacramento County Cracks Down, Raises Awareness About Water Safety

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Triple-digit heat is sending many people to the water, but after a string of drownings, Sacramento County is trying to crack down and raise awareness.

Large signs display a serious message. Underneath — free life vests. And still, people are swimming out into the Sacramento and American rivers and drowning.

“A lot of people feel they don’t need it. I am an adult, I am a good swimmer and even strong swimmers can get into trouble in a river because of current and the water temperature,” said Michael Doane, chief park ranger for Sacramento County.

So far this year, eight people have lost their lives, and park rangers say it is because they didn’t play it safe.

The latest death came on Sunday near the Rossmore Bar Area of the American River where a man was carried off by the current and drowned.

Doane says this story is all too common.

“People say, ‘I want to swim across the river,’ so they pick point A and point B and they want to swim in a straight line, and they fight the current the entire way. When they start to fatigue, they try to make it back to where they started from instead of just turning around and facing down stream …  Just ride the current and then you can use your arms to act as a rudder to direct you over to the side,” he said.

This year, all eight deaths have been adult swimmers, which is why the county is working hard to educate everyone about the dangers of the river.

They’ve also beefed up their park ranger staff and the Drowning Accident Rescue Team at Discovery and Tiscornia parks.

This year, the American River Parkway Foundation donated hundreds of live preservers for popular swimming areas. But even with all these efforts, many say people won’t listen.

“Unfortunately, when I was younger, I did the same thing — they feel invincible,” said Mike Bartal.

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