Park officials stress importance of life vests amid second-deadliest season on record

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MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A 25-year-old man drowned over the weekend in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Park officials are now urging swimmers to wear life vests.

Five drowning deaths in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area have made it the deadliest season since 1999 and now, officials are issuing a public safety announcement asking everyone to look out for each other and wear life jackets.

A 25-year-old New Jersey man was among the drowning victims. He went under the water over the weekend, possibly caught in the river’s strong current.

“If you have swam in a lake, or in a pond or a pool, but the river, again, is very different because of that swift current and that’s why it’s ever more important to make sure you’re protected when you’re out there,” Kathleen Sandt, a spokesperson for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area told Eyewitness News.

Smithfield Beach is without lifeguards this season, in part because of COVID-19 making the waters especially dangerous. Sandt says wearing a life jacket is the best thing you can do to keep safe but it’s important to make sure you’re wearing it correctly.

“It will tell you what the measurements are and also the weight of the person that this life jacket is intended for,” Sandt explained.

Coast Guard-approved life jackets have features intended for the wearer’s use. Wearing one that is too big or not properly fastened may result in the wearer slipping through it in an emergency

The Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau spent Monday filming a public service announcement for those coming to the region.

“There’s a real safety implication,” Chris Barret, President and CEO of Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau said. “We need to get the message out that we do want you to visit, we want you to play at our national, our local, state and federal parks. But we want you to be as safe as possible.”

Officials recommend everyone wears them when swimming, kayaking, canoeing or on a boat. Wearing them is recommended, not required by law.

Saturday’s death is the fifth in the river this season, making it the second deadliest season on record. In 1999, the park had seven deaths.

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