Nevada officials urge boating safety after drowning in Topaz Lake

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Published: May. 10, 2022 at 10:42 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A 32-year-old man drowned this past weekend after the boat he was on capsized in stormy conditions.

Now officials are urging everyone to be extra careful as boating season approaches.

Boating education coordinator at Nevada’s Department of Wildlife, Aaron Meier says Saturday’s incident is the first of its kind this year.

“Four individuals, two youth, a 14 and a four-year-old, and then two adults,” said Meier. “It got pretty windy, and it got choppy and it capsized their boat and dropped all four people in the water about 200 feet offshore. The two kids were wearing life jackets but the two adults were not and unfortunately one of the adults drowned.”

Statistics indicate that 85% of people who drowned in a boating accident were not wearing a life jacket.

“Legally, only people 12 and under have to wear a life jacket, but accidents like this prove that everyone should be wearing a life jacket,” said Meier. “You don’t know when you’re going into the water. They’re called accidents for a reason and when you wind up in the water, you don’t have time to go find the life jacket somewhere in your boat that you weren’t wearing.”

Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley says everyone should be mindful of water and boating conditions beyond personal floating devices.

“Any body of water in Northern Nevada, you really have to be careful,” said Sheriff Coverley. “You know, Pyramid Lake is another one where the weather can change quickly and it can become dangerous. The message that I would have for the public is to look ahead, you know, kind of pay attention to what the weather is doing.”

“Cold water shocks are real deal,” said Meier. “People are on boats on nice 75, 80 degree days and they jump off to take a swim or whatever, and the water is in the 50s. In that kind of cold, your body will start shutting down.”

The last boating fatality in Topaz Lake was in 2019. In that incident, Sheriff Coverley says alcohol played a part.

“It impairs our ability to do things. So, that’s why you can’t drive or shouldn’t drive. That affects your ability to swim or to make decisions once that emergency happens,” said Sheriff Coverley.

Life jackets come in a variety of sizes for kids, including infant. Once a child moves past 88 pounds, it is recommended to move up to adult size.

NDOW is expecting this boating season to be busy. The agency recommends taking a boating class to make sure you are prepared before going out on the lake.

There are online courses and in-person courses available with varying levels of interactive elements and costs. One of them is free.

For more information, click here.

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