Josephine Co. Sheriff’s Office offers safety tips after fatal drowning

Grants Pass. Ore. —  The Rogue River claimed the life of a woman Monday at Baker Park in Grants Pass. She was pinned underneath a downed tree, which led to her drowning. The victim did everything right – she wasn’t floating the river alone, it was still light out, and she even wore a life vest. But in this case, it just wasn’t enough.

“Deceased female was found to be pinned to a tree with her life jacket. Her life jacket was caught on a branch. And the current forced her head underwater. Before rescuers could get to her, she had passed away,” said Travis Snyder, undersheriff for Josephine County.

47-year-old Sharlene Wright is the first fatal drowning in Josephine County this spring.

“It gets warm, people start recreating, they start enjoying the water, and then these tragic accidents take place,” Snyder said.

The sheriff’s office said Wright took all the right precautions, but the river still took her life.

“A life jacket is not the end all, there are still hazards out there and that’s why being focused on what’s ahead of you in the water and being aware of potential hazards is huge,” Snyder said.

Hazards, including rocks, sharp objects, and large tree branches.

“Newer people to rafting, they need to be more cognizant of how dangerous that is and just take more time and more caution. It’s a tragic accident that happens all too often,” Snyder said.

Again, while Wright’s life vest contributed to her death, the sheriff’s office doesn’t want it to deter you or your family from wearing a vest. It said the odds of surviving a boating accident without a life vest are slim. It also suggests to consult with others who are familiar with the area before getting in. That way, you can have a conversation of the conditions and any areas to stay vigilant for.

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