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Recent drownings prompt experts to urge caution

, Written by Kassi Nelson, Posted: Tue, July 8 2014 at 6:08 PM, Updated: Tue, July 8 2014 at 6:59 PM

Shady Cove, Ore. -- Water is one of the basic essentials for human survival. But the very thing that keeps us alive can also kill us.

"The river is misleading it look calm, but once you get in the middle of it it can be very swift moving," Lifeguard and swim instructor Holly Hawley said.

At least eight drownings have been reported in Oregon and Southwest Washington since July 1st.

The most recent drowning occurred Monday in the Santiam River. 14-year-old Salem boy Sean Kaleopa drowned at Three Pools Recreation Area. The popular destination is located about 12 miles northwest of Detroit, Ore.

The spike in drownings is prompting experts, including Hawley, to urge caution.

"I would never swim alone. I would always want someone with me," she said.

When it comes to riding the water Devon Stephenson, Co-Owner of Rapid Pleasure Rafting in Shady Cove, said safety is a top priority.

"It's a safe adventure. For thousands of people who go down the river there's few incidences," Stephenson said.

He said everyone on the raft has to have a life jacket in the raft. Children under the age of 12 are required to wear on at all times. Each raft also has an emergency whistle to alert people nearby if they need help.

All the safety precautions because Stephenson knows a relaxing day on the river can quickly take a turn.

"A very small amount of moving water will wipe your feet from under you," he said.

Hawley encourages people to take swim lessons and always have a life jacket.

"Your best bet is going to be relying on yourself," she said. "Being able to float on the surface face up, that's going to give you time to rest and breathe."

Hawley said it's a basic skill that can mean the difference between life or death, especially when rivers are as unpredictable as they are.

"It changes day to do," she said.

Hawley also said if you get in a situation where the current is pulling you downstream don't fight it. Use it to your advantage and swim diagonally downstream with the current, angling yourself toward shore.

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About the Author

Kassi Nelson

NBC5 News reporter Kassi Nelson was born and raised in Nebraska. She graduated from the journalism school at University of Nebraska Lincoln where she studied broadcasting.

She also studied philosophy in the Czech Republic. Kassi has visited nine other countries including Sochi, Russia, where she reported on the preparations for the 2014 Olympic Games.

She loves skiing and live concerts!

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