KING COUNTY, Wash. — Waves of people hit the water on Monday as several areas across the state hit 90 degrees, setting up for a busy day for deputies with the King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) Marine Rescue Dive Unit.
Following a deadly weekend, deputies are calling for swimmers to wear life jackets when they're out in the water. Three people drowned over the weekend, including two children. Two kids are in critical condition after being pulled unresponsive from Lake Stevens on Sunday.
Although the weather is warm, lakes and rivers in western Washington are still dangerously cold.
“I will put my guys at risk and myself to go rescue someone,” said Sgt. Rich Barton with KCSO's Marine Rescue Dive Unit.
Barton said he's seen an increase in drownings over the last couple of years, with 29 drownings in King County in 2021 alone. According to county data, two-thirds of the deaths could have been prevented by a life jacket.
“We don’t deal with a lot of people that die with a life jacket on,” said Barton.
Even for advanced swimmers, there's still a risk when entering the water, Barton said. Most of the bodies of water he and his 13 deputies cover in King County are below 70 degrees, which is considered cold and can lead to dangerous situations.
“Cold water immersion causes an involuntary gasp and that’s when you ingest water," Barton said. "That’s a very quick rapid shock to the body where you can’t overcome and you basically succumb to a drowning."
Along with nice weather, Barton said he anticipates a busy summer on the water.