Conservation Officers Say Life Jackets Save Lives - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Conservation Officers Say Life Jackets Save Lives

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Illinois Conservation Officer Sgt. Laura Petreikis says, when it comes to being out on the water, "You can't control everything."

And that's the message she wants to drive home, as crews continue to search the river after Tuesday's accident.

Officers are asking everyone who will be on rivers or lakes this season to wear life jackets, or have them accessible.

"It fits snug around the shoulders, snug around the waist, and I have straps that are cinched down," Petreikis says, about the life jacket she always wears when she's on duty.

But she says, too often she stops boaters who don't wear jackets, or aren't wearing them properly.

"It's frustrating, because I've done this job for a number of years and I know life jackets save lives. And I feel for every family that has to go through what they're going through. And obviously our main goal is to provide them closure. But life jackets save lives."

If they're worn properly, something she demonstrates, saying, "This one is an adult medium or large, and it says for someone that's more than 90 pounds, and then the chest size would be 36 to 44 inches.

It's an adult jacket.

But the most common mistake this officer sees is children wearing those.

"We see kids get in a boat and the life jacket goes up like this. Number one they're miserable because it doesn't fit 'em properly. And number two, it's way too big. If they go in the water and they're knocked unconscious or they should happen to go through a situation like we had yesterday, it could easily be ripped off of them."

Same thing if it's too small.

"That's what you'll see when you pull up to check somebody on a boat and they have a life jacket on and it's unzipped or unfastened and it's like this" Petreikis says.

So it's on, but if you're struggling in the water, "You're swimming around, then this thing is not likely gonna stay on you, or it might float. And you might have more complications than if it was zipped and fit you properly."

She says they may look big and bulky, but if you and your kids make it a habit to wear them, "It's just second nature and you learn to ignore it. You don't even realize you have it on." Until you need it.

It's the law to have a life jacket for each person on board.

And officers say it's a boat owner's responsibility to make sure they are the right size, and that everyone knows how to use them.

Adults don't necessarily have to wear them, but they have to be reachable in an emergency.

And everyone under 13 must be wearing one at all times in both Iowa and Illinois.

Conservation Officers also say boaters should always check all their safety equipment before heading out, and make sure a cell phone is charged.

If there is an emergency, use the cell phone right away, because the current can carry you away very quickly.

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