Chelan Fire District Has “Water Safety Tips”, 2 Deaths Already
Chelan County Fire District 3 is circulating an advisory on "River Safety Tips" after the death of two people on Chelan County waterways early this summer season.
The tips are specifically focused on the Wenatchee River, where most of the distress calls from tubers and rafters come from.
District 3 Chief Kelly O'Brien says the distress calls they receive are mostly for people not wearing flotation devices or life jacket as well as inappropriate rafts or tubes.
"Some of them are not meant for swift water," O'Brien said. "They're out there in their cheap raft and the water just beats it up this time of year. It'll hit a stick and get a hole in it, and all of a sudden they're going flat floating down the river."
One death has been on the Wenatchee River this season while the other one happened in Icicle Creek, which feeds into the river.
A 46-year-old man, Robert Spurrell of Cashmere, was assisted to the shore of the Wenatchee River by people in his group on May 4 near Dryden. Efforts to revive him were not successful, and he died at the scene.
Then, a Wenatchee man drowned while camping with a group of friends at the Rock Island Campground near Leavenworth last Saturday afternoon.
He did not resurface after diving into the Icicle Creek and his body was found downstream. Deputies says alcohol may have played a role in that death.
The "River Safety Tips" from Fire District 3 states that most tubers get into the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth at the Icicle Bridge or at the Icicle River at the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery. The Tips advise that, “Putting in at the wrong point can and has resulted in fatal drownings.”
O'Brien says most of the people they rescue are from out of the area who don't realize how cold and fast the water is moving.
"You have a really small area you can enjoy," said O'Brien. "And if you don't get out of the river in the proper spot, then you're not going to be getting out. You're going to be floating down towards Peshastin in a panicked situation. That's typically when we get called in."
The public is advised they must exit the river at Barn Beach, as dangerous class 3 and 4 rapids are directly downstream.
The city of Leavenworth is in the process of improving signage on the river to delineate the exit point at Barnes Beach.
The "River Safety Tips" also warn against tethering oneself to a paddleboard on moving water because fatalities have resulted when the leash becomes entangled in an underwater hazard.
In addition, people are advised to not tie rafts and/or tubes together because rafts need to be untied to negotiate around hazards.
In addition, the "River Safety Tips" bring up the dangers on the Wenatchee River at all levels. High levels bring cold, swift water with high currents. Water flow is still fast at medium levels, and many of the same risks are still present. And a low level, trauma becomes an issue because rocks are exposed and the river channelizes, possibly forcing people into hazardous features.
A social media post recently by the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office said. “It's that time of year again everyone. Flows are still high, the water is still cold, and folks are getting into trouble.......”