Safety Urged On Illinois River In Wake Of Drownings

Monday, June 20th 2011, 1:43 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

NEAR TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma -- It's been a deadly few weeks on the Illinois River. In all of last year, there was only one drowning on the Illinois River. This year, there have already been four, and we're still weeks away from the July 4th holiday weekend.

"The river is powerful, it's relentless and it is unpredictable," Ed Fite.

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Director Ed Fite said the most recent drowning victim is 29-year-old Adam Morefield. His body was discovered Sunday morning

"This particular incident this weekend, this is the first of the four that we suspect that excessive use of alcohol was involved," Fite said.

Morefield, a Kentucky native, was in Oklahoma for training at the Army ammunition plant in McAlester. He wasn't wearing a life jacket.

6/19/2011 Related Story: Crews Pull Body Of Drowning Victim From Illinois River

In fact, none of the drowning victims on the Illinois River this year were wearing life jackets. With the water level a couple of feet above normal and the flow of water much higher than normal, experts say wearing a life jacket is critical.

Right now, there are 100,000 extra gallons of water per minute flowing down the river.

Recent flooding, when there was six times the normal water flow over Memorial Day weekend, left more navigational hazards.

Fite said with the dangers it doesn't make sense to go without a life preserver.

"You're in control of your own destiny," he said. "If you're going to come to the Illinois River or any water based recreation, whether it be a lake, a pond or whatever, wear a life jacket and be aware of your surroundings."

Fite said alcohol should also be avoided and floaters should pay attention to daily 48 hour recreational forecasts.

"Even makes a recommendation of who should float and who should not," he said.

The bottom line is, experts want it to be a fun filled summer, not one filled with tragedy.

People under the age of 13 have to wear a life jacket at all times on the Illinois River. Everyone has to at least have one that is readily accessible.

Any beverages with an alcohol content over 3.2 percent are prohibited on the river.