Deputies to start aggressively patrolling Spokane River

SPOKANE, Wash. - Another person drowned over the weekend in the Spokane River, this time near People's Park and now the Spokane County Sheriff's Office is saying enough is enough.

Starting this weekend, if you get caught in the river without a life jacket and you'll be fined. So far this year 10 people have died in the river, so the sheriff's office, along with the Spokane Valley Police Department, will be watching the river, making sure everybody is wearing a personal flotation device or life jacket.

No warnings, no second chances, wear a jacket or pay the price.

Last weekend was another warm weekend and another body was pulled from the Spokane River.

Spokane river rescue

"What's an incredibly frustrating problem for everyone here, including the rescuers, is being able to see the person underwater, and every tool we tried [wasn't] effective in removing him from the grate," Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.

That grate was underwater near the bridge; the victim fell from his raft and the current pinned him against it, and just like the last nine people pulled from the quick running water this year, the victim this weekend wasn't wearing a life jacket.

"As easy as it sounds, life jackets save lives. Like I said, we've never done a rescue where a person had a life jacket on," Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.

With so many people drowning in Spokane waters the sheriff's office will now be sending out a reminder concerning river rules.

"You have to have your life jacket on if you are in the water on a raft. You can't just have it with you. It's a $76 ticket. It's a county ordinance and it's going to be zero tolerance," Chamberlin said.

That means deputies, along with Spokane Valley police, will be working overtime starting Saturday to try and prevent more drownings.

"Very high numbers and obviously we need to do something about it," Chamberlin added.

Life jackets are required from the Denney Ashcroft Memorial Bridge all the way east to the state line. That's because that water is considered swift current. Once you hit the bridge west those requirements no longer apply.

Those requirements do pick right back up at People's Park just west of downtown Spokane and from there all the way to Plese Flats, life jackets are required.

"Bottom line, we just want to make sure folks are safe. We have a huge number of people that have drowned in our waters this summer so we are taking the steps that we need to combat this to make sure that when families come out, they come home and they are safe," Chamberlin said.

Even though there are stretches of river where life jackets aren't required officials say it never hurts to have one on.

If you don't have a life jacket you can get a coupon for one on the Spokane Regional Health District website that is good for any Big 5 sporting goods store. This Thursday at the General Store on Division you can pick one up at a discounted price thanks to Spokane Riverkeepers.