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Bonneville County deputies have responded to at least 30 water rescues this season


IDAHO FALLS — From the beginning of May until now, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office has responded to at least 30 water rescues.

“In the month of July, there were 12 of them or more. We are on an average of one every other day but with the ones this week, we are a little more than one a day,” said Sgt. Bryan Lovell.

Lovell explained the water rescues range from anything involving a vessel, vehicle, or person in the water that causes a safety issue, has injuries or potential injuries, drownings, missing persons or stranded people.

On Monday, a woman was rescued when she jumped out of a kayak to avoid a moose. It happened near the South Fork of the Snake River near Fall Creek. Deputies were able to recover the victim by boat. She was treated for mild hypothermia symptoms and told deputies she had become separated from the rest of her party down a different channel after being caught in the current and unable to swim out of it. Click here for the story.

RELATED: Woman rescued after jumping out of kayak to avoid moose

“The Snake River varies through our county where you have channels that are slow and calm but are very, very close to a lot of undercurrents and hazards beneath the surface of the channels that you are in,” Lovell said. “They can shoot you out to a very swift channel and down towards obstacles and things that will roll you and pull you down.”

Since Monday, Lovell said there have been at least five water rescues with two of them on Wednesday.

That’s when deputies responded to a driver who crashed into a canal on County Line Road. One person was taken by air to the hospital and was in critical condition at last check. Click here to read more.

RELATED: UPDATE: Here’s what happened after a car crashed into a canal on County Line Road

The other incident happened at the Palisades. A man was on a paddle board, went into the water and did not resurface. He was not wearing a life jacket at the time and drowned.

RELATED: Man drowns in Palisades Reservoir

Lovell told this was the first death this year for a water rescue in Bonneville County.

While the sheriff’s office has had at least 30 water rescues since May, the number is over the 24 rescues by this time in 2021. He said 2020 was about the same and in 2019, there were around 13. It has been steadily increasing year to year.

“We have water rescues that involve the most experienced boaters or swimmers and people that are new to it. The water doesn’t care who it is. There are hazards and things in there that can take people by surprise,” said Lovell.

Idaho Falls Snake River
The Snake River. |

The Idaho Falls Fire Department has also been involved with several of the same water rescues. Spokeswoman Kerry Hammon said they have been on at least 18 water rescue calls since mid-May.

“People can be unaware of the dangers or they get separated from their group or they are not in a life jacket. Plan ahead, know where you are going, and pay attention to the weather and take safety measures,” said Hammon.

Lovell said to remember these four important factors before recreating on the water:

  • Know the waters you plan to recreate in BEFORE you enter them, including temperatures, flows, hazards, current weather patterns etc. 
  • Utilize the appropriate watercraft, kayak, floatation device, etc. for the water you plan to enter
  • Plan for emergencies, let people know where you are recreating and when you plan to exit the water
  • Idaho law requires children 14 years or younger to wear a life jacket (vessels under 19ft), however the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office deputies ALWAYS recommend the use of life jackets when a vessel is underway (includes non-powered boats, kayaks, and boards that are paddled, rowed, etc.)

He said another factor that people don’t realize is hypothermia can hit during this time of year.

“The weather is 90 degrees lately. The water feels really good when you get in it but people don’t realize that it’s still cold and the effects of hypothermia can kick in. That can quickly affect your ability to self-rescue,” Lovell said.

Lovell recommends the Department of Parks and Recreation website. It has several boater safety classes that are available to people and discusses the importance of life jacket safety. Click here to learn more.

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