CONCORD — After seven deaths by drowning in the past six weeks and about two dozen hikers billed for their rescue each year, officials from the New Hampshire Marine Patrol, Fish & Game Department, Division of Parks and State Police met with the media yesterday to sound a caution to those intending to enjoy the water and outdoors over the 4th of July weekend.
As five of the seven drownings occurred in rivers, Sergeant Joshua Dirth of Marine Patrol warned swimmers of high water, strong currents and dangerous undertows following heavy summer rainfall. Boaters, he said, should ensure that all required safety equipment, which varies with the size of the vessel, is on board before taking to the water. In particular, life jackets should be properly sized and in good condition. Dirth also urged boaters to check that their lights and horns are in working order and that the lanyard controlllng the emergency sut-off is always attached to the wrist of the person operating the boat.
Dirth urged boaters to visit the Marine Patrol website at www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/nhsp/fob/marine-patrol for further information about how to ensure that time spent on the state's waters is spent safely.
Tom Dakai of the Fish & Game Department noted that hiking poses all kinds of safety issues, most of which can be addressed by taking care to plan a hike of distance and difficulty that is within the limitations of the hikers. He noted that in the mountains conditions, particularly temperatures, can change quickly and significantly at higher elevations and urged hikers to have appropriate clothing for cold, wet weather. He also stressed the importance of carrying adequate food and water. He reminded hikers they can indemnify themselves against being charged the expense of their search and rescue should they be deemed to have acted negligently by purchasing a "Hike Safe Card," which is available on the department's website at www.nhfishandgame.com/HikeSafe.aspx.
As many as 60,000 people may line the one-and-half mile strand at Hampton Beach on the holiday, said Jeff Kelley of the Division of Parks and Recreation. He said that ocean currents and undertows present risks, especially to children, who he stressed should be kept under close supervision. But, he added that experienced swimmers should be aware of their capabilities and avoid unnecessary risks. He said that 18 lifeguards are on duty at the beach and red flags where red flags are flown to signal dangerous conditions.
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