Life jacket restriction not enforced for holiday

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - High water on the James River is a potential danger for swimmers of all ages. But it turns out some of the rules designed to keep you safe, aren't always enforced. In Richmond, the rule is, if the water on the James River measures five feet or higher, everyone in the water or on the rocks has to wear a life jacket.

Five feet of water doesn't sound like a lot but no matter if you're on two legs, or four, it can still be trouble.

"They're trying to get across the River, and they're having a  hard time, so, hopefully they'll make it!" said swimmer Wyatt Talley.

So the James River Park System has a rule in place: When it's five feet or above, a life jacket is required. Which is why it all seemed so odd to look around and find almost nobody wearing one.

Ralph White's job is to make sure people have a safe time but also, a "good" time. When the river level came in just two inches above five feet, he made the call.

"We are not enforcing the life jacket requirement [today]. It would cause a riot. We are so close to five feet," White said.

Ralph decided that 5.2 feet, did not pose a safety hazard at Pony Pasture. A move that came just days after Friday's rescue of two people from nearby Belle Isle, when the water was a foot higher.

"There's a tremendous difference between 6.2, and 5.2 or 5.1. When it's 6.2, it's really unsafe," White said.

Ralph's call, appeared to be met with much approval. Even as some parents said a life jacket is still the rule for them.

"For my kids, I will, gonna use something for them, something safe," said Mario Rosales.

The river level is expected to rise back above six feet by Thursday. So it appears that the rule will be enforced again by police very soon.

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