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Preserve(r) life

Stay safe on river — use life jackets at no charge

Journal file photo Riding a Brown County Sheriff’s Office boat, officers of the river rescue and recovery deputies search the Cottonwood River and shoreline for a missing man in June 2018.

BROWN COUNTY — After the bodies of men ages 48 and 19 recently recovered from the Minnesota River in Renville County, Brown County Sheriff Jason Seidl urged the public Thursday to make use of life jackets available free of charge at all five county libraries.

“Life jackets can be checked out like library books at all Brown County libraries, including New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Springfield, Hanska and Comfrey,” Seidl said. “The Brown County Sheriff’s Office received federal grant money to buy the life jackets that were placed in libraries.”

Infant, youth and adult life jackets may be checked out for up to one week at libraries.

New Ulm Public Library hours are 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The library is closed Sunday.

Seidl said the Sheriff’s Office has several boats and a drone available for law enforcement, rescue and recovery. In addition, they have diving gear for sheriff’s staff.

“We’ve worked with other law enforcement agencies before, and they’ve helped us,” he added.

In addition, Seidl said boat users should ensure their boats are ready to use and boat capacity limits are followed. Capacity limits are listed in by persons and in pounds and found on a plate on boats.

Minnesota law requires one U.S. Coast Guard-approved, properly sized, and easily accessible life jacket for each person in a boat.

“Wear life jackets, watch the weather, don’t drink and boat,” said Seidl. “Let people know where you are going, when you leave, when you plan to get off the water and when you plan to reach your destination.”

Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable said personal flotation devices are a must and river currents are very dangerous.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of life jackets, especially in moving water,” said Hable. “The river is a different animal. Sometimes the best swimmers aren’t ready for what the river has in store.”

The American Red Cross reports swimming in natural water is more challenging than home pools.

Advice includes always entering unknown or shallow water feet first, watch for currents, waves and underwater obstructions.

Red Cross swim lessons help children and adults gain water safety and swimming skills. Classes are available for children as young as six months.

According to the Red Cross, an average of 10 people die daily from unintentional drowning. On average, two of them are under age 14. Drowning is responsible for more child deaths ages 1-4 than any cause except birth defects.

Children under age 1 are more likely to drown at home. For children under age 5, 87% of drowning fatalities happen in home pools or hot tubs.

Those age 5-17 are more likely to drown in natural water, such as a pond or lake.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Minnesota River is unhealthy for swimming. Sediment clouds the water, phosphorus causes algae, nitrogen poses risks to humans and fish, and bacteria makes the water unsafe for swimming.

For more information, visit https://www.redcross.org and pca.state.mn.us.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.)

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