Members of the King County Sheriff's Office Marine Rescue Dive Unit visited the Snoqualmie River on Wednesday to train for marine rescues.
They train twice a month to be ready to respond when a swimmer runs into trouble.
As par of their drill today, organizers dropped a life-sized weighted mannequin in the river before divers arrived to practice searching for a missing person.
The Dive Unit crew said rescue training helps them prepare for real-life rescue scenarios.
Last year 17 people drowned in King County, according to statistics gathered by Public Health: Seattle and King County. The 17 drownings in 2017 were down from 22 in 2016. So far this year the KCSO Marine Rescue Dive Unit says it has had fewer responses this summer. They don't know if it is because people are more aware of the danger of rivers and are staying out, or if the weather in June had fewer people in the water. They also think recent drownings on the river could have some swimmers thinking twice before climbing in.
Even as rescuers practiced diving on the Snoqualmie River Wednesday afternoon, people went by floating the river on innertubes and rafts without life jackets. While life jackets are not required by law, King county Sheriff Sgt. Mark Rorvik says it is just common sense. He'd take it one step farther.
"I'd rather see nobody in the river, quite frankly, that's what I'd rather see. I think rivers are inherently dangerous unless you have specific training and the right equipment," said Sgt. Rorvik.
He too noticed the number of people floating the river on Wednesday without lifejackets. A float company in Fall City drops off rafters right next to where deputies were diving. On Wednesday afternoon, only about half of the riders chose to wear a life jacket that was given to them by the rafting company, the others didn't even bring them.
Rescuers worry about increased risk on the river and a pleading with people to at least wear life jackets, and to highly consider staying out of the river altogether. Sgt. Rorvik said the current is unpredictable and there are all kinds of hazards, including downed tree, or strainers, that can knock people out of rafts and pin them under the water.
By the time rescuers can arrive, the missing swimmer has usually been under water with out oxygen for too long. Instead of a rescue it becomes a body recovery.
Click here for more information on the KCSO Marine Rescue Dive Unit.
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