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'Know your limits'

When brothers Irving and Juan Carlos Fuentes drowned in Lost Creek Lake earlier this month while boating with family, neither man was wearing a life jacket.

“It can turn tragic in a matter of minutes,” said Sgt. Shawn Richards of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, who patrols county waters. “Had those individuals been wearing life jackets, I believe they would still be here today.”

Not wearing a life jacket, or not wearing a life jacket that fits properly, Richards said, is among the most common safety issues officers encounter.

Richards said he has noticed an uptick in the number of tickets written for not wearing life jackets since boating season began in May, despite the risk and a potential fine of $265.

One possible cause for the increase is the growing popularity of paddleboards and other non-motorized boating activities, which still require individuals to wear life jackets and carry whistles, Richards said.

On a standard 18- to 20-foot boat with an in-board motor, state law requires a life jacket for everyone on board, a throw cushion to provide aid to someone in the water, a horn or whistle, a fire extinguisher and a ventilation fan to expel vapors, Richards said.

For swimmers, no safety equipment is required, but Richards recommends wearing a life jacket in lakes and rivers anyway.

“Know your limits, and if you’re going to test those limits, wear a life jacket,” Richards said.

Richards asked that people call 911 if they encounter safety issues.

Contact Mail Tribune reporting intern Joe Wolf at jwolf@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4368. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCharlesWolf.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Friends and families swim and play at the Emigrant Lake swimming area Friday afternoon.