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Congested Rivers Mean Dangerous Conditions

Reported: May. 24, 2014 10:47 PM EDT
Updated: May. 25, 2014 12:15 AM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Sean Delancey) -- With such beautiful weather Saturday, people were hitting the water, but congested rivers mean dangerous conditions.

It's been a busy start to the holiday weekend on the Kanawha River, and, thankfully, a safe one so far.

Boating is obviously a lot of fun, but there are dangers out there that people don't often think about.

Boats are all fun and games, until something goes wrong.

"That water has no friends,” William Kirk, admiral for the Kanawha River Navy, said. “It has no friends. If you fall in, and you can't swim you're going to drown."

Kirk is a captain in the U.S. coast guard. He's spent most of his life off of dry land.

He said accidents on water are much more dangerous than those on land, and people don't factor that into their boating trips.

"They have no idea how dangerous it is,” Kirk said. “They have no idea how dangerous that water is."

Boating instructor Maureen Burdette is with the West Virginia Power Squadron, a group dedicated to spreading awareness on boating safety.

She says the number one things to be sure you do--- have life jackets readily available for every person on the boat.

"Sometimes the current is strong, and they could be swept away,” Burdette said. “You have to raise anchor, turn around and get them. You may or may not get there."

She also said West Virginia rivers hold a threat most people don't consider - barges, or tows, that act as floating trains.

She said when you're cruising down the river, get out of the way fast.

"People don't understand that the tows may take up to a mile to stop," she said.

If something does go wrong on the river, Kirk said the Coast Guard has to respond, and that may take too much time if you go under without a life jacket.

"The Coast Guard has to be here and they have to come from Huntington all the way into here," he said.

So you should always be prepared for anything, and be aware of your surroundings, to avoid an accident in the first place.

Life jackets are a no-brainer and, remember - if anyone on your boat is under the age of 13 they are legally required to wear their life jacket.

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