EDITORIAL: Life jackets must be worn

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP say message is not sinking in

Maybe it’s because he also instructs boating safety that you can sense the frustration from Vernon RCMP Cpl. Gerry Kovacs  when he said, with no pun intended, the message about being safe on the water is not sinking in.

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP have been conducting daily patrols over the last two weeks on Okanagan, Kalamalka, Mara and Mabel lakes.

This past weekend, six boats were taken off the water because they weren’t safe. Charges were laid for not having the vessel licence on the back of the boat, not having an operator competency card on board and not having a spotter when towing someone behind the vessel.

There were also charges – and this is where Kovacs’ frustration rises – for not having a sufficient supply of life jackets on board for each person.

And it’s not just on boats where life jackets, or a lack of them, are an issue.

Police rescued two stand-up paddle boarders who got blown out towards the middle of the lakes. Neither had a life jacket and one was so exhausted they were literally clinging to the board, hoping to be picked up by a boater.

One 14-year-old boy was also rescued by police after his inflatable dinghy got blown off-course by the wind.

He too did not have a life jacket on or with him in the dinghy.

While boating law in Canada states that there must be approved life jackets aboard the vessel for every person on board, it’s simply not enough to have them stored someplace on the boat.

“It’s an offence to be on the water without life jackets aboard,” said Kovacs. “And wearing a life jacket is the absolute insurance against drowning.”

RCMP are reiterating their message to all boaters: go out and enjoy the lakes, but make safety a No. 1 priority.