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Lake Powell officials emphasize safety following several deaths

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27 2013 1:05 p.m. MDT

Ten people have died at Lake Powell since October. June was particularly grim with six fatalities in 10 days, and that has the National Park Service re-emphasizing its safety message.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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LAKE POWELL — Ten people have died at Lake Powell since October. June was particularly grim with six fatalities in 10 days, and that has the National Park Service re-emphasizing its safety message.

Pat Horning and Chris Weaver are part of the Lake Powell Dive Team. They are the ones who have to recover the bodies. These are men who have seen way too much death and are always on the lookout for people doing unsafe things.

"They don't fully understand that there are rules and skills necessary to operate boats,” Horning said of many boaters.

Jessica Jackman, 22, along with her mother, Marilyn Jackman, 57, of South Jordan, and Valerie Rae Bradshaw, 29, of Sandy, were killed June 20 when the motorboat they were riding in collided with a houseboat near Dangling Rope Marina.

The number of recent deaths makes it sound like more people are dying at the lake than usual, but Horning said that's not the case.

“We are on track for an average year, but it seems like we had so many so close together in June and July that it seems like a lot,” Horning said. On average 12 people a year die at the lake, he said. Not all are lake-related, though. Some people die from medical issues like heart attacks.

Weaver and Horning spend a lot of their time just talking to people about the basics of boats and the rules. They recently stopped a boat that had a young girl resting in the bow.

“So with a wake and awake, she could have tumbled out of the front,” Weaver said. “He may or may not have seen her, could have run over her with the boat.”

It's a scenario that happened on July 1. A 5-year-old boy was riding in the bow of the boat when the watercraft hit a wave and the boy fell out near Tapestry Wall rock formation. Officials say he was struck by a propeller and was killed instantly.

Part of the problem is people get so caught up in the scenery and the fun and excitement that they forget about basic safety practices and, sometimes, common sense.

“If you are coming here and a period of time passes and the lake levels change, then it becomes dangerous because you think what was here in July is what you are going to see in September,” Horning said. “The lake changes all the time.”

On Aug. 7, David Hinton, 23, was killed after he hit a submerged rock or island near Dangling Rope Marina and was ejected from the front of the boat, which then struck him.

Boating safety isn't the Park Service's only concern. Activities seen on YouTube are being done at the lake. Cliff-jumping has been banned here for years, at least above 15 feet. Ziplining is also banned.

But the latest wild water wonder, Flyboards jet packs, are not banned, at least for now.

"We're starting to see those here,” Horning said. “We're not really sure yet how dangerous they are, if they're dangerous.”

Giant rope swings are not banned, although there are restrictions on climbing and drilling bolts into rock.

The people who have seen death close-up at Lake Powell just wish people would use good judgment.

"They think that it's a free-for-all here,” Horning said. “But there has to be order, and without order, we have bad accidents here."

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: Hollenhorst@deseretnews.com

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