BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Investigators have determined that a man who drowned Saturday after the kayak he was in capsized at West Branch State Park was not wearing a life jacket.
A friend who was kayaking with Collins, attempted to help him when his kayak capsized, but while the friend was towing Collins, his own kayak began taking on water and capsized, too. Men fishing nearby were able to help the one man, but they could not get to Collins.
ODNR investigators determined that neither boater was wearing a life jacket. They said it was windy and the water was choppy when the kayaks capsized.
“You can’t predict what’s going to happen to you, so by wearing a life jacket at least you are able to keep yourself safer,” said Chris Hughes, aquatic director, YMCA Boardman.
“A lot of times in the cooler weather, people are wearing clothing that’s very difficult to swim in, especially if you have shoes on. So, having a life jacket on whenever you are wearing clothing or the water is cold is especially important,” Hughes said. “There is a float in the front behind the person so these kind of keep a person more upright as opposed to laying back.”
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, there were 14 boating fatalities on Ohio waterways overseen by ODNR last year. Of those deaths, seven involved boaters who did not have a life jacket or were wearing their life jacket incorrectly. Statistics also show that boating accidents are more likely to happen in a powerboat, canoe or kayak. There were two deaths recorded using a sailboat and one each for a pontoon or rowboat.
Ohio law requires life jackets be worn under the following conditions:
- While riding a personal watercraft
- While waterskiing or being towed on a similar device
- For children less than 10 years of age on any vessel less than 18 feet in length
It is particularly important to wear a life jacket in the following situations:
- When the boater cannot swim or is a weak swimmer
- When boating alone
- When the water is dangerously cold (the months of October through May in Ohio)
- During rough water/waves and severe weather conditions
- When boating at night
- In emergency situations
- In swift and fast current situations
Information on types, sizes and proper fitting of life jackets can be found on the website for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.