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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • River drowning stirs passions

  • UPPER DELAWARE - The loss of another visitor to drowning in the Upper Delaware River stirred the passions of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), Thursday night June 5th.
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  • UPPER DELAWARE - The loss of another visitor to drowning in the Upper Delaware River stirred the passions of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), Thursday night June 5th.
        Carla Hahn, Management Assistant of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River/ National Park Service (NPS), said that the college student wasn't wearing a life jacket when he got out of the raft to try and swim.
        Ukonne Uyobong, a graduate student from Africa who was visiting from the New Jersey City College, went rafting on the Upper Delaware, May 25. According to the Park Service, Uyobong, who could not swim, removed his life vest and dove into the murky waters at Hansom Eddy near Barryville.
        His body was not found until Friday, June 3rd, five miles downstream, near Pond Eddy.
        Park ranger Kevin Reish told the Times Herald Record that Oyubang surfaced once and was not seen again by others on the raft.
        Both the other two occupants of the rented raft and park rangers immediately tried to find and rescue the man, according to Reish.
       The incident happened right behind the nearby Park Service office. Rangers had a canoe in the water in less than a minute, he said. Divers were dispatched.
       The water still was high and murky from the recent rains. The incident took place 50-100 feet from shore where the water was 10-15 feet deep. Reish said the water was calm.
       Following the report from Hahn, the UDC chairman, Andy Boyar, asked if there will be any follow-up discussion with the liveries. Canoe and raft rentals on the Upper Delaware are handled by commercial livery operations. The Park Service instructs them to have staff give safety talks to their customers, including the wisdom of wearing a life jacket.
        Cindy Odell, UDC secretary, is a member of the Water Safety Committee set up by the Park Service. Among the suggested ways to promote the safety message is to have a recorded safety reminder- in various languages- playing the buses that transport livery customers, have a video playing in the office where customers register, and to start a contest involving a pledge to wear a life jacket.
         The pledge cards will be at NPS kiosks and on site of the liveries that agreed to participate in the program. A person takes the pledge by filling out a card and are entered to win one of several prizes.
        Alan Henry, UDC delegate from Berlin Township and a retired park ranger, said it was peculiar that the victim had the jacket on but took it off to go swimming. He asked if it could be learned where he had entered the river, and who gave the safety talk. Hahn said it may be hard to determine who have the talk at a later date.
    Page 2 of 3 -    Boyar advised that it was a good idea to investigate."We're  looking for accountability," he said.
       Larry Richardson, Town of Cochecton representative, added a lot of people hear the talk but then ignore it. "Once out of sight you have no control," he said.
        Henry said this wasn't a "blame game," but their concern is to find out what went wrong.
       Henry stated that there has been concern about shortening he safety talks.
       He added that he was impressed that the Park Service Water Safety Campaign seemed to be working. They had been through two seasons without a tragedy (within the limits of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River).
       At the May 1st UDC meeting, Executive Director Laurie Ramie reported that there was a 10 percent increase in life jacket wear from 2012 to 2013. That brought up the percentage of those observed to be using them to 63 percent. She commented at that meeting that this was a good result of the Water Safety Campaign.
       "Maybe it's time to review the protocol," Henry said.
      Reish said to the press that it wasn't yet known why Uyobong had gone swimming without his life vest, especially since he could not swim.
       He added that even those who can swim should wear life vests in the often treacherous river. “Half the people who drown here are swimmers,” he said.
       Since 1980, 63 people have drowned in the Upper Delaware. In 2011 there were five people that drowned here. Every one of the victims were not wearing a life jacket or was not wearing one properly, according to the Park Service. The superintendent at the time, Sean McGuiness, launched a concerted effort to expand the campaign for safety on the river.
    SAFETY TIPS ON THE WATER
     
     The National Park Service offers several water safety tips for visits to the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River. Among them:
      Even though the Upper Delaware River appears calm in some areas, DO NOT be misled! Moving water must be respected. Always be aware of the current river conditions.
        * Wear your life jacket even when swimming. Most drownings occur when boaters stop and swim. Never swim alone!
        * Do not overestimate your swimming ability. Do not attempt to swim or wade across the river. The Delaware River has strong currents and steep drop-offs. Swimming becomes more difficult with increased current and water depth. Even the strongest of swimmers should be extremely cautious!
        * Wear shoes to protect against glass and rocks.
        * River rocks can be very slippery.
    Page 3 of 3 -     * Avoid obstacles in the water well in advance. Stop and scout rapids to pick the best channel.
        * Never tie your life jacket to your boat.
        * Do not stand in your boat. Kneel while going through rapids, you will be less likely to capsize.
        * If you capsize, don't panic. Save people first! Retrieve boats and equipment only if it can be done safely.
        * Always stay with your group.
        * Guard yourself against sunburn by wearing a hat and light clothing and by using sunscreen with a high rating.
        * Cold water and/or weather can cause hypothermia.
        * Stay hydrated! Bring plenty of water. Do not drink river or stream water, even clean water can have natural bacteria.
        * Alcohol and boating are a killer combination!
          Alcohol can enhance heat-related illnesses and slow your response in an emergency. Laws on underage drinking, possession and use of illegal drugs, disorderly conduct and littering are strictly enforced.
    For more information visit online at www.nps.gov/upde/planyourvisit/riversafety.htm .
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