HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Dock Street Dam has claimed lives for decades, the latest casualty a Franklin County man who died after his boat capsized going over the dam. After the deadly accident, officials are making sure people hear their warnings before boating season is in full swing.
Officials say it is all about taking the right precautions. Rivers are unpredictable, and it only takes one time for things to go fatally wrong.
“Every year in Pennsylvania, boaters die on Pennsylvania waterways,” Harrisburg Bureau of Fire Chief Brian Enterline said. “That moving water is what folks get jammed up in.”
After the latest casualty at the Dock Street Dam, Enterline is reminding boaters — not for the first time — to take the right precautions.
“When you don’t have those safety devices in place, that’s when we have tragedy,” he said.
Wearing a life jacket is a big one. In spring, it is required.
“Before May 1, you must have a personal flotation device properly worn,” Enterline said.
He also said people should always carry an anchor on their boat.
“If your motor goes out, you have no way to stop, right? You need to throw that anchor out and lock yourself in place so that rescue people can get there to tow you back to shore,” he said.
Most importantly, Enterline said to know the waterway before getting on a boat, especially if there are dangers like low-head dams. Enterline says the currents around those dams are incredibly dangerous.
“It’s sucking you back into the dam. That’s how these low head dams, that’s why they’re called drowning machines,” he said. “The best swimmer is not getting out of any of these dams.”
Those same dangers make it hard for rescue crews to get you out of trouble.
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“We still are subjected to that nasty current that’s there, the undertow,” Enterline said.
He said that is why safety precautions are important. Most time, people will not need them, but they are when they do.
“It’s that one time where something happens and now you’re not here the next day to talk about it,” he said.
Enterline there are warnings, including signs on both sides of the dam. Officials also place buoys in the water in May to indicate the day, but Enterline said the current often carries those away.