EUREKA, Mo. (AP) — The arrival of hot weather and the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic means bigger crowds at Missouri waterways, but too often this year the trend has taken a deadly turn.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that at least 10 people have drowned so far this month in Missouri, and six others died in boating accidents. None of the 16 victims wore a life jacket.
Across Missouri, at least 39 people have either drowned or died in boating accidents so far in 2021, including at least seven children.
Public safety officials gathered Monday in the St. Louis suburb of Eureka for a news conference urging caution on the water. It followed three drownings in the St. Louis area last week alone. They included one on the Meramec River, one on the Big River and one at Creve Coeur Lake.
“Rivers are relentless. They do not discriminate, they don’t care who you are,” said Cpl. Juston Wheetley of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
St. Louis County’s parks, once quiet, are now frequent destinations for people looking to cool off, Park Ranger Sgt. Cheryl Fechter said. She noted that because some pools are closed this year due in part to a shortage of workers, many people are instead swimming in rivers.
For those who choose to swim in rivers despite the risk, interim Fenton fire Chief Ramona Kaminski recommends life jackets, even for adults who consider themselves strong swimmers.