National Boating Safety Week begins Sunday and safety advocates hope area boaters will take heed before hitting the water.
The Alpine County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday rescued a 34-year-old man injured while kayaking on the Mokelumne River, which is a popular spot for kayakers during the Sierra Nevada spring runoff.
Authorities received a GPS distress signal about 11 a.m. coming from a wilderness area along the river. With a lack of information and resources to verify the call, the Sheriff’s Office contacted a nearby PG&E helicopter crew for assistance.
The helicopter located the man with three other kayakers on a rock about 10 miles out from the start of the kayaking run, which begins at Highway 4 and ends at Salt Springs, said Alpine County Sheriff’s spokesman Denver Stoner.
Stoner said the PG&E helicopter picked up rescuers, who helped the man as he was airlifted by a private medical helicopter to a Roseville hospital with what was believed to be a broken rib.
Stoner said the area in the Mokelumne Canyon where the kayaker was injured is “extremely difficult” to get out of on foot and impedes signals for cell phones or radios.
“It speaks to knowing your surroundings and being prepared for what you might get into,” he said.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,600 boating accidents last year resulting in 672 deaths and 3,153 injuries. The majority of the accidents involved motorboats, with only 350 of the accidents involving sailboats.
The National Boating Council will start its campaign next week to urge boaters not to drink while on the water, always wear a life vest and take a safe boating course to learn water safety skills.
For a list of area events focusing on boating safety, visit www.readysetwearit.com/join-event/usa-events or go to safeboatingcouncil.org.