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After Wednesday's water rescues, Omaha-area officials urge life jacket importance

Here's a few potentially life-saving reminders
Posted at 7:19 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 20:19:16-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Two people had to be rescued from the Chalco Hills Recreation Area on Wednesday in two separate incidents. As the weather warms up, officials want to stress the importance of wearing a life jacket.

"If they fall in the water and can't swim, the water temperatures — or the water temperatures right now are very cold — so a life jacket is going to save your life in these water conditions," Iowa DNR Captain Greg Harson said.

Avid anglers like Rocky Lohman see people forego life vests far too often.

"Most of the time, I don't see people wearing a life jacket, I saw like five or six people in three different boats and I didn't see anyone else wearing a life jacket," Lohman said.

In Nebraska and Iowa, anyone over the age of 13 is not legally required to wear a life jacket, but one must be on board, within reach and easily accessible. Kids aged 12 and under must wear a life jacket all times, and adults in their company can be issued a citation if the children are found without life jackets.

On Wednesday night, a 27-year-old man drowned at Wehrspann Lake. The Sarpy County Sheriff's Office confirmed he was not wearing a life jacket.

Dawn Brindisi manages Select Sail & Sports and explains why some people opt out of wearing one.

"Comfort I think would be the first reason, they feel like they're in their way or cumbersome," Brindisi said.

Brindisi says to make a jacket less cumbersome, it's important to go into the store, try one on and then make adjustments as you go. Also, make sure to pick a jacket appropriate for the activity.

"For kayaks, typically you have a chair you're sitting up against. Find one with a low profile back and fits very adjustable and open, or if it's a paddle/kayak that's open for the arms so you have freedom of movement," Brindisi said.

It's a decision that could determine life or death.

"I don't think I like the idea of drowning out there and if the wind is blowing and you fall out of the boat, the boat's gonna move away from you in the wind and it can move faster than I could swim now," Lohman said.

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