Law enforcement agencies across the state train for water rescues

GOLD HILL, Ore. — For over a decade, law enforcement and fire agencies from across the state have been coming to the Rogue River for the Oregon state marine board drift boat operations course.

It’s a situation that no one wants to be in, but one that inevitably happens every summer.

“This water temperature is incredibly cold, it’s still spring, this is snowmelt right here, you’ll hypothermic in about 5 minutes,” Eddie Persichetti with the Oregon State Marine Board, said. “This water is very dangerous.”

First responders see it too often, people underestimating the power of the water and floating down the river without a life vest.

“We have a lot of situations where somebody goes out there and they’re seeing this tranquil river and not a lot of current, but yet underneath of what they don’t see you have a lot of current that’s moving very fast, the water is very cold,” Lt. Ernie Fields with the Josephine County Sheriff’s office said. “All those things that we described that somebody could very easily get in trouble.”

That’s why every summer for more than a decade, fire agencies and law enforcement from across the state come to the rogue river for drift boat training.

“It’s our job to teach them survival techniques, white water rescue techniques and for the next four days we go into drift boats,” Persichetti said.

The goal of the training is to not only get law enforcement comfortable in the water but to teach them techniques to keep themselves safe while saving lives.”

Some of the self-rescue techniques included learning how to properly throw a throw bag, as well as defensively and aggressively swim.

“It was a little challenging, some of the currents are pretty strong,” First timer Deputy Sheriff with Tillamook county, Dennis Greiner, said. “I’m pretty amazed some of the boaters who went by in the floats weren’t wearing a life jacket, that’s pretty dangerous.”

For anyone who is out patrolling these waters and responding to calls, they know these challenging drills will pay off.

“Some of us are marine deputies and were out there in the water, people are in need of help, we need to know this stuff,” Greiner said.

Anyone who is new to a marine unit and operates a drift boat is required to take this training.

There were roughly 40 people at the Valley of the Rogue State Park on Monday and it will end on Friday the 14th.

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