Riverkeeper: "You Have To Respect These Rivers"

Three people have died on our rivers in just a week's time... now.. officials are urging people to consider the power of the river's current.

COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX) - Three people have died in our rivers in a week's time. Now, officials are urging people not to underestimate the power of a river's current.

"You have to respect these rivers," said Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler. "This isn't a water park. This isn't the pool at the YMCA. And if you're not careful and you don't respect it, you could pay a really, really steep cost."
 
As the Congaree Riverkeeper, Stangler sees people enjoying the rivers every day.
 
"It's just a really popular area for all sort of activities, everything from whitewater kayaking, to tubing to fishing," Stangler said.
 
Stangler says he also sees people underestimating it.
 
"There are some spots that are very deep, there are some spots that are fast moving," Stangler said, "this is a class three, class four rapid right behind us."
 
"People get into those waters and those currents and they misjudge their ability to fight mother nature," said Sgt. Rhett Bickley with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. "You may be a strong swimmer but the river is stronger."
 
To prove his point, Sgt. Bickley got in the water to show how quickly a current can move a person.
 
"One minute you're sitting by a rock thinking, 'hey, I'll just grab it if I get into trouble,' and then there's nothing around to grab," Bickley said.
 
Bickley says if he could leave one message with everyone who'd listen, it would be to wear a life jacket.
 
"Life jackets turn tragedies into funny stories, or adventures that you survive to tell your kids about later on," Bickley said.
 
"So people need to be aware of all these things before they decide they want to go swimming, or go tubing, or go boating," Stangler said.
 
Stangler says you should also keep your clothing in mind, as jeans and cotton material will weigh you down more making it harder to swim.

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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