Life jacket loaner program aims to save lives

SPOKANE, Wash. - Life jacket loaner program aims to save lives

The latest tragedy on the Spokane River has rescue workers pleading with the public: wear a life jacket.

Carl Van Etten is an avid and experienced kayaker who knows what the Spokane River is capable of doing. So, he turned his passion into a purpose and created a life jacket loaner program. He says if it saves just one life, it is well worth his effort.

"I came across a log that was floating in the water and my first perception was that it was a body, my heart sank," said Van Etten.

That day Carl realized he needed to take action.

He knows the river well, but even with his years of experience, the river is in charge. Just Wednesday he rolled his kayak and had to free himself.

"I bounced off boulders going through those rapids, with a life jacket on and it still was a scary experience. I am sure that anybody that would have been watching would have thought: wow, he's drowning," said Van Etten.

Good thing! Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Chamberlin says if you float without one, your fun day on the river will end abruptly.

"It's zero tolerance for our Marine Deputies. You're going to get a ticket if you are not wearing a life jacket if you are floating on the river," said Chamberlin

Besides the $76 ticket, not wearing a life jacket on the river just isn't worth it.

"You don't know what's under there, so you've got to be careful. Respect the river," Chamberlin said.

If you need, you can grab a loaner life jacket at four access points along the Spokane River: State Line, Harvard, Barker, and Mirabeau Point.

If you'd like to donate a life jacket to the program, they are accepted at all SCOPE locations.