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Experts talk about boating safety after fatal accident on Bear Lake

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Posted at 7:03 PM, Jun 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-03 08:30:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Whether it's the force of a current in what seems like a peaceful river, or an undertow on a beautiful ocean beach, or the glacial cold of a mountain lake, water is as deceptively dangerous as it is alluring.

A clear example: Four deaths on Utah's Bear Lake on what in many ways seemed like the perfect June day.

Ty Hunter, Boating Program Manager for Utah State Parks, said the victims had the right safety equipment.

"All of those individuals were wearing a life jacket," Hunter said.

But, Hunter said the key beyond safety equipment is keeping an eye and ear to the weather and to seek safety before it feels like an emergency.

"If you're not comfortable with what's out there, but you're in a place of safety, wait it out," Hunter advises.

Emergency Room Doctor Scott McIntosh of the University of Utah said cold water is far more deadly than cold air.

"Water takes the heat away from the body about 20 times faster than when we're in the normal air conditions," McIntosh said.

Both Hunter and McIntosh said the only time to swim away from a capsized boat is if you are in clear swimming distance to shore and remember it's easy to overestimate your ability to swim in cold water.

"Your blood starts to shunt into the core and away from your hands and your legs, and one thing that can happen after 15 to 20 minutes in the water is your swimming capacity can go to nil," McIntosh said.

McIntosh added the best way to conserve heat while waiting for rescue is to tuck in your arms and legs as you float with the aid of a life vest.