La Crosse Dive Rescue team stays prepared for emergencies, educates boaters on safety

La Crosse Dive Rescue team stays prepared for emergencies; educates boaters on safety

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A recent report from the U.S. Coast Guard shows more than 80 percent of people who died in boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket. More boats will be on the water for the Fourth of July holiday this week. 

La Crosse Dive rescue officials are warning people to stay safe when out on the water. The La Crosse Fire Department is prepared for more than just fighting fires. 

"We have got a highly skilled group of individuals with this department who are trained for that type of scenario," said Capt. Tom Griffith, leader of the La Crosse Dive Rescue unit. 

Griffith has been with the La Crosse Fire Department for 18 years. 

"I have been the water team leader for five," he said. 

As boaters head out on the water for the upcoming holiday, the message about safety hasn't changed. 

"No. 1: wear your personal flotation device," Griffith said. 

It's also recommended to not drink alcohol while you are on a boat. 

"Also pay attention," he said. "Look at the radar before you head out there." 

The conditions out on the water can change fast.

On Sunday, a group of kayakers capsized in the La Crosse River. 

"They just got caught up in a storm," Griffith said. "The current was rather strong that day. The La Crosse River had risen pretty rapidly over the past couple of days." 

The kayakers didn't panic and Griffith's team was able to get them to safety. No one got hurt. 

"Those people did a remarkable job," he said.

The dangers of the water are no joke. 

"It can be pretty dangerous and people don't understand how powerful that current can be," Griffith said. "It's a great resource it can be a lot of fun. We just want people to be safe out there." 

The Department of Natural Resources has an online boater safety program. Griffith recommends people take that course. 

The river is projected to hit the 10-foot mark again. That means no wake rules will go into effect. 

Boaters will have to travel at slower speeds along any developed shoreline such as highly populated areas and towns like La Crosse. Boaters can increase speeds once they get outside of those populated areas. 

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