Every summer Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wardens spend long days enforcing Montana’s boating and water recreation laws, investigating from 20-30 boating accidents a year. With the July 4 weekend ahead, wardens will be focused on helping boaters be safe.
“Boating safety is something we take very seriously,” said Marc Glines, FWP warden in Ennis. “We see firsthand how lives can be saved or lost, depending on who is on the scene, the skills and training they have, and the conditions on the water.”
FWP wardens say a more widespread commitment to safe boating practices and more boaters with swiftwater rescue training would help to decrease accidents and fatalities on Montana’s rivers and lakes.
Montana’s waters are especially dangerous because they can be very cold and rapid, with volatile changes in flow.
“It is extremely easy to misjudge conditions on the water when navigating a boat. And, if you fall into very cold water it quickly reduces your fine motor functions so your hands don’t work and the rest of your body becomes leaden,” he said. “In some cases, if you capsize you’ll have only a couple of minutes to act effectively.”
Glines said rescue training comes into play by helping an individual quickly assess what can and can not be done under the circumstances, and how best to carry out a safe rescue.
Glines said a lifejacket, or personal flotation device, is literally a lifesaver. But, it cannot save you if it is stuffed in a bag at the bottom of the boat. He also recommends a boating safety course and a river rescue course of some kind.
“When an emergency occurs, time is of the essence. This is where knowledge and rescue skills can make the difference for you and for those you are trying to help,” he said.
“I’m glad to have swiftwater rescue skills. But, after seeing boating accidents and fatalities firsthand, I hope I’ll never be called on to find a missing family member lost in the current,” Glines said.