Local kayakers hope drowning spreads safety awareness

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Police say a 17-year-old boy died after his kayak capsized in Covell Lake Saturday night. He was with a 22-year-old man who also fell in the water, but lifeguards from Terrace Park were able to pull him to safety. Police say they will not be releasing the names of the two people involved.

Officers say neither of them were very strong swimmers, and they were not wearing life jackets.

Local kayakers say drownings are tragedies, but are avoidable. The sport is becoming more trendy, but they say they aren’t seeing enough people following easy safety guidelines. There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to kayak properly and safely. However, both of the members of the kayaking group, the Sioux Empire Paddlers, both emphasized one particular necessity. 

“It’s an absolutely beautiful day,” Cory Diedrich, kayak instructor, said. 

Kayaking can be the perfect way to launch into the week. 

“Kayaking is definitely one of the most popular sports in Sioux Falls,” Will Wheeler, kayaker, said. 

KELOLAND News spotted two men who were doing just that on Monday afternoon. Even before they got in, Wheeler and Diedrich predicted the two men were going to break rule number one. 

“They’re not going to wear their life jackets, I can tell you that right now,” Diedrich said. 

We spotted at least one life jacket, but Wheeler says it’s not enough to just have one with you. 

“Well, the boat already knows how to float and if you don’t have it on, it’s not going to save your life,” Wheeler said. 

Wheeler says you need to wear it nice and tight. 

“If you can lift this over your ears, it’s not tight enough,” Wheeler said. 

Diedrich says the device could’ve changed the outcome of the drowning death at Covell Lake. 

“I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years about kayaking, and kayaking safety. I’ve dreaded this interview, but I’ve also expected it for quite some time,” Diedrich said.

Beyond life jackets, Diedrich says you should always kayak with someone else and has advice for kayakers if they tip over. 

“Don’t panic. It’s most likely not a 911 situation. Just relax. Take that first minute to get yourself under control,” Diedrich said. 

It seems simple, but both men hope people pay attention to this advice so everyone can be safe on the water. 

“Those tragic events don’t have to happen. Completely avoidable,” Wheeler said. 

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