LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN (WXOW)-- A river safety tutorial by the La Crosse Dive and Rescue Unit was held Saturday, at Pettibone Beach Club. It's called "Neighbors Saving Neighbors" and the goal is to teach river rescue techniques anyone can do.
The dive team demonstrated a reach rescue, which means using a paddle to pull someone on shore and how to properly do a boat rescue.
The head of the dive team says anyone attempting to help should be wearing a life jacket. And if it's necessary to go into the river to help someone, that should be left up to the professionals.
Some of the rescues even kids could do in an emergency.
"They threw this rope with a bag at the person behind them so that if they got it, they catch the rope and they could pull them in," said Maddie Sobek, a fourth grader at the demonstrations.
And while boating season is coming to a close, the river poses a safety threat year round.
"A lot of our calls are, you probably figured out, alcohol related," said Kevin Kappauf, who leads the dive unit.
He says too often drinking is the cause of river accidents.
"There's people that have a few too many and think they swim across the river, they fall out of their boats the crash their boats," Kappauf said.
And with colleges back in session, the problem becomes students who drink downtown and wander toward the river.
"Their alcohol levels are so high they don't know if they're walking or riding a horse, and that's where they fall into the river," Kappauf said. "And that's where we get called out the next morning, which is too late."
So Kappauf and his dive team do a lot of work off the water to teach people about the dangers of the river.
"That's part of our mission statement is to educate the public on water safety," Kappauf said. "College kids have their whole life ahead of them and if there is anyway we can keep them safe and educate them and not do anything silly. The alcohol thing, I was there at one time, stay with your friends, keep an eye on your friends."
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